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Defending NEC champs ready for next task: protecting the crown

Photo by: Kelsi-Mariah Oresman
Photo by: Kelsi-Mariah Oresman

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – It was a dream season in 2017-18 for the Bryant University women's swimming and diving team, winning the first Northeast Conference title in the program's history, powered by a five-win performance in relays and a 140-point performance by the divers.

But that was last season. This is a new year for the Bulldogs and they know it takes a lot to do it all over again.

"Every semester you start with a 4.0 and it is yours to mess with," head coach Katie Cameron said. "Last year was a very special year, but we started out this season at our meetings saying that last year has no impact on this one."

What is in common with last season is quality returners, led by now-senior captain Jillian Rice (Trumbull, Conn.).

"It is definitely giving us more confidence because we have so many great returners from last year," Rice said. "Our goal is to be even better. Yes, we won every relay, but we want more of a scoring presence with more swimmers in A and B finals."

Bryant was one of three teams in the conference's history to win all five relays at the championship meet and the first in a decade. That doesn't not instill complacency in the team, however. It is setting the bar to be raised.

"We aren't going to get too confident and we remember that anything can happen throughout the season," Rice said. "We just have to stay focused on winning and wanting to win and be really driven towards that goal of a conference title."

A big part of that 2018 conference title was the performance on the diving board, with all five returning female divers making finals last season. All in all, the Bulldogs took 10 of the 16 diving finalist spots and half of the available medals.

"All of our ladies are looking great this season," diving coach Chuck LoCurto said. "We are working hard to repeat and improve on last year's amazing performance at NEC's."

Back again is senior Stephanie Jennings (Elmont, N.Y.), who has claimed three medals in her diving career with the Bulldogs.

"To get us back to where we were last year, we need to all put everything we have into this team," she said. "If we can do that, we will go down and be successful again."

The chase for the second ring in as many tries starts on Friday evening when the team heads to Chestnut Hill, Mass. for a meet with Boston College at 5 p.m.