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Gwynedd Mercy

Villa Maria swim team finding its way in rare rebuild

MALVERN >> The eight-time defending state champion Villa Maria Academy swim team took a big hit last summer, when four state medalists graduated and a sophomore medalist transferred to Texas.

Accordingly, the Hurricanes (4-4, 1-4 AACA) have been looking to develop their underclassmen talent this winter.

But Saturday afternoon at Malvern Prep – Senior Day for the Villa Maria squad — was a day for celebrating the Hurricanes’ 10 senior swimmers during their AACA meet against Gwynedd Mercy.

Villa Maria senior co-captain Alexa Turco, who placed in the top eight at States last winter in four events, finished first Saturday in the 500 free and 200 free, in the Hurricanes’ 97-88 loss to GMA.

“Senior Day is bittersweet for me this year,” said a smiling Turco, who is headed to University of Tampa next fall. “It’s really sad that I’m going to be leaving Villa Maria because I love this team.”

Turco’s fondly remembers when, as a sophomore, she was the second swimmer in the Hurricanes’ 200 free relay team that won the state title by .01 seconds.

“What made it special was that I got to swim it with three of my best friends,” said Turco.

Villa Maria’s other senior co-captain, Riley Miller, finished first in diving Saturday, leading a deep Hurricane dive squad that also earned second place (Peyton Kintzley) and fourth spot (senior Sarah Logan).

“Senior Day is really exciting for me, because when I was a freshman I was the only diver for Villa Maria,” said Miller. “It’s great to see how the diving team has grown.”

Last winter, Miller finished eighth in diving at States.

“It was great to be part of the state championship team, to be part of the celebration last winter,” said Miller.

The 10 seniors honored Saturday were Turco, Miller, Logan, Emily Stein, Annie Rogers, Kelly Lain, Elizabeth Gray, Sarah Raubenheimer and managers Claire Dobson and Ava Reinecker.

Villa Maria head coach Cathy Hay said, “We have a nice team this year, a young team, we’re rebuilding. Gwynedd Mercy is a good team that could be the district champion this year. Right now, we don’t have the depth that they have.”

Several underclassmen distinguished themselves for the Hurricanes Saturday. Junior Caitlin Hamill finished second in both the 200 free (2:01.36) and 500 free (5:33.07).

“Caitlin posted very good times for this year,” noted Hay. “We had great distance swimmers today.”

Turco won the 200 free (1:59.93) and 500 free (5:19.03), and teammate Catie Mannato placed third with a personal best of 5:48.59.

“Catie also did well in the 100 breast (1:17.17, fifth place), getting us some important points today,” said Hay.

Villa Maria’s Hannah King finished first in the 100 free with a time of 56.48, and was second in the 50 free (26.16).

The Hurricanes’ Megan Cassidy placed second in the 100 butterfly (1:02.51) and was the leadoff swimmer of the second-place 200 free relay team that included Hamill, Turco and King.

The Villa Maria quartet of Turco, Hamill, Madeline Ladd and Hannah King posted a personal best time of 3:44.96, getting barely nosed out for first place by Gwynedd Mercy (3:44.09), whose quartet was anchored by Auburn University-bound Annie O’Dare, who was 2A state champion in the 100 breast last winter and runnerup in the 200 IM.

Villa Maria’s Madeline Ladd finished second in the 100 back (1:00.73) to O’Dare(58.06), who also finished first in the 200 IM (2:11.56) and was part of GMA’s first-place 200 medley relay.

Other first-place individual finishers for Gwynedd Mercy were Isabella Kellner (50 free, 26.05), Ella Gross (100 butterfly, 1:00.31) and Aileen Murray (1:10.95). Gwynedd Mercy also finished first in the 200 free relay.

Gwynedd Mercy 97, Villa Maria Academy 88
200 medley relay – 1. Gwynedd Mercy (O’Dare, Murray, Sasso, Kellner) 1:53.39; 200 freestyle – 1. Turco (VMA) 1:59.93; 200 IM – 1. O’Dare (GMA) 2:11.56; 50 freestyle – 1. Kellner (GMA) 26.05; Diving – 1. Miller (VMA) 212.78; 100 butterfly – 1. Gross (GMA) 1:00.31; 100 freestyle 1. King (VMA) 56.48; 500 freestyle – 1. Turco (VMA) 5:19.03; 200 freestyle relay – 1. Gwynedd Mercy (Sasso, Romberger, Kellner, Gross) 1:43.63; 100 backstroke – 1. O’Dare (GMA) 58.06; 100 breaststroke – 1. Murray (GMA) 1:10.95; 400 freestyle relay – 1. Gwynedd Mercy (Gross, Murray, Romberger, O’Dare) 3:44.09.

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