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Belles ready to begin year

Rama Gottumukkala | Friday, October 1, 2004

Coming off a season when six seniors helped account for eight Saint Mary’s team records, the Belles will look to rebuild with a youthful team that will try to usher in a new era for the program.”We’ve got a very different team this year,” Belles coach Gregg Petcoff said. “We lost six seniors and together within that six-member class, their names were up on the record board 21 times. So the goal for this season is to reestablish with the large freshmen class the direction that the program goes. Given our circumstance we’ve got a lot of inexperience – talent but inexperience.”The Belles will be tested today as they participate in the annual Dennis Stark Relays. The relays present the Belles a unique opportunity to challenge a number of Division I programs, including Notre Dame, Illinois State and Valparaiso and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a top 25 Division III program.”With a majority [of the teams] being Division I programs, it provides us with great challenges,” Petcoff said. “Competitive-wise, as a team everyone is walking into this meet thinking ‘Oh, Saint Mary’s. Well we should outpoint Saint Mary’s.'”But the Belles see these Relays as an inviting opportunity to challenge scholarship swimmers from a number of Division I programs while gauging their individual and team development early in the season.”We’re going to looking at it from the bottom up, trying to do some damage on some of these programs and see how competitive we are [with them],” Petcoff said. “We want to put some our swimmers up there where we they can measure themselves against the Notre Dame, Illinois State and Evansville scholarship swimmers.”Led by senior co-captains Michelle Stanforth (breaststroke, individual medley) and Ashley Dyer (freestyle sprint), Saint Mary’s deep but young team tackles a tough schedule this year that includes the 2004 and 20-time Division III national champion Kenyon College. The two teams will face off Nov. 13 in the Maroon Division III Invitational.”This is a very young team and, if anything, our only disadvantage is that we have less experience at the collegiate level,” Stanforth said. “But I think this can also be an advantage because it means that we have a new team that can have a new and positive outlook.”The Belles take to the water at 6:30 p.m. for the Stark Relays in the Rolfs Aquatic Center.