The numbers are up this season for the Cuyahoga Falls girls swimming and diving team. Included are some undercclassmen who have a lot of potential.
"I’d like to see our senior girls really pass some leadership on to them," said second-year head coach Richard Vaughn, whose team went winless last season. "When you have a young group coming in, those young girls can take over some of the roles that the juniors and seniors had as they graduate. We’re really looking for that transfer of leadership."
Leading the way for the Black Tigers will be senior Bryce Matolyak, who will swim the 100 breaststroke and the 100 freestyle.
"Bryce is coming back from an injury from last year that caused her to miss two meets," said Vaughn. "She’s really worked hard in the offseason to get that conditioning back to where it was. She provides great leadership to the younger girls."
Two other girls who will be key contributors to the team’s fortunes are senior Chloe Gambol and junior Lucinda Ulbricht. Gambol will swim the 100 and 200 freestyles, and Ulbricht will be a diver.
"Chloe is an all-around athlete," Vaughn said. "She’s just very coachable. She’s always there to take criticism and improve every time she gets in the pool.
"Lucinda was a district qualifier last year. She really has no fear when it comes to diving. In fact, a lot of times we have to kind of pull her back a little bit and have her take it easy and work her way up to some of the more difficult dives. She’s a very confident diver and a very confident person."
Sophomore Olivia Smith will swim the 50 and 100 freestyles, while freshman Lainey McDaniels will compete in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
"Olivia is very trainable and very eager," said the coach. "Lainey comes from our Tiger Shark program, so she kind of had a reputation coming in of a girl who was pretty good. And she has totally exceeded all of those expectations. She’s very coachable, very strong, very fast. As some of our juniors and seniors graduate, we’ll really look to her to start carrying some of the load as far as the leadership goes."
Also on the team are Alexandra Fertig, Rebecca Johnston, Katie Howard, Kirstie Fontancz, Jackie Carleton, Jeana Nestor, Natalie Ball, Jenal Blake, Emma Brustoski, Olivia Golec, Kaylee Johnson, Natalie Polidoto, Kaitlin Wilson, Lindsay Liikala, Molly Strausser and Anna Penkalski.
The Cuyahoga Falls boys team is also coming off a winless season but, like the girls team, is also up in numbers.
"Having more than one kid in each lane is definitely something we’re looking forward to," Vaughn, also the boys coach, said. "We’re looking for our eight returning lettermen to really step up and take on some leadership."
Leading the way for the boys team will be seniors Dylan Holmes, who will likely swim the 50 and 100 freestyles, Jared Wackelry, who will swim the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle, and Zach Langbein, who will compete in the 100 butterfly and 50 freestyle.
"Dylan hit the weight room really hard in the offseason and has put on a lot of muscle," said Vaughn. "We’re excited to have him back. He provides leadership in and out of the pool.
"Jared is that quiet leader. He’s always there for us whatever event we need him to swim.
"Zach brings a lot of experience to the team. We also can put him in any event we need him to swim in, which really helps us spread the boys around."
Two other team members who look to be key cogs to the team’s fortunes will be sophomore Stanley Shuck and senior Tyler Johnson. Shuck will swim the 100 breaststroke and the 50 freestyle, while Johnson mainly will be a diver.
"Stanley is just a natural athlete," Vaughn said. "He makes it easy on the coaching staff because he has so much natural ability. We don’t have to spend a ton of time working on his conditioning. He’s already at a high level coming in from other sports, so we really can get him going pretty fast. He can swim several events.
"Tyler swam for us a little bit last year, but because we have higher numbers this year, he can really focus on diving. We really look for him to earn a lot of points in the diving event."
Also on the boys team are Caleb Stanley, Vann Strausser, Jacob Carleton, Kyle DeRemer, Jackson Gallagher, Noah Blake, Christian Gonzalez, Sita Kaba, Nathan Lowe, Luke Ulbricht and Henry Thomas.
Vaughn’s assistant coaches are Jack Kramer and Lily Lewis.
The Black Tigers are scheduled to open the season Dec. 19 at Suburban League National Conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights.