BY MELANIE DASILVA
The Sacred Heart University (SHU)women’s swimming and diving team has more to the program than just backstrokes and freestyles. After losing their one and only diver on the team last year to graduation, the program gained four divers for the 2018-2019 season, along with a new diving head coach.
In Aug. 2018, head swimming and diving coach, John Spadafina, announced that Adam Vance would serve as the new diving coach for the Pioneers. Vance came to SHU after previously coaching at his alma mater, West Chester University of Pennsylvania.
“I was most excited for the enthusiasm felt throughout the entire team,” said Vance. “I was also excited for the four freshmen on the team. We were able to start on a clean slate and set up expectations and goals for the season very clearly.”
The four divers on the roster this year are freshmen Alexandra Bonanno, Molly Martin, Megan McLaughlin and Jessica Pianese.
“I am aware that a lot of the school doesn’t know there is a swim team, and no one knows a thing about diving,” said McLaughlin. “This has to be changed because I want people to be aware that all the girls on the team work so hard and push themselves every day.”
Although the season ended after the Northeast Conference (NEC) Championship on Feb. 14-16, the divers progressed mentally and physically throughout the season.
“At the NEC’s, having three divers score points for the team on one and three meters was a huge accomplishment for us,” said Vance. “The icing on the cake was Molly Martin qualifying to the finals on the three-meter board. She was the first diver in 9 years to final at NEC’s.”
Some of the divers came into the season with no prior experience.
“For me, I just started diving this past summer,” said Bonanno. “I had a hard time learning how to dive backwards which ended up in a lot of smacks while entering the water. As the season went on, I feel like I progressed up to where my other teammates are at.”
Vance noted that the Pioneers faced multiple battles this season due to injuries and learning more dives to be able to compete in a dual meet on one-meter and three-meter dives.
Vance said that diving is a mentally challenging sport. Each of the divers were able to step their game up mentally and physically at the NEC championship.
“A big struggle for me was keeping my confidence throughout the season,” said Martin. “By the end of the season I am glad to say I was able to remain confident even when things didn’t go as planned.”
According to Athletic Communications, Martin placed seventh overall in the NEC on the three-meter with a score of 190.5, McLaughlin placed 10th with a score of 184.5, Bonanno placed 14th with a score of 133.85, and Pianese finished with a score of 123.15.
Both Vance and the first-year divers are excited to watch and be a part of the growing diving program at SHU and are already looking forward to next year.
“I am looking forward to increasing our depth at the conference level, some great incoming freshmen, and continuing our rising success with our returning divers for the 2019-2020 season,” said Vance.