With possibly its deepest and most talented team ever, expectations have never been higher for the Riverside Brookfield girls' swimming team.
The Bulldogs return almost every piece from last year's team that finished second at sectionals. With a handful of state qualifiers back in the fold and another year of experience, RB is eyeing loftier team goals.
"Our goal last year was to win our sectional, and we came close," said Bulldogs coach Todd Frydrich, who is beginning his fourth season as girls varsity coach at RB. "We want to finish off that goal this year, but the ultimate goal will be to place as a team at state.
"That was the ultimate goal when I took this job, was to raise ourselves up to a state-level team. I think we've done that."
Juniors Sara Martinek leads the cast of returnees after going to state in two individual events last year and being part of state-qualifying relays. She qualified in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle races and has gone in the 100 for two straight years. She is looking to medal in both events at state this year.
Senior Natalie Pike, a key swimmer for RB each of the last three seasons, could have her best year yet. She qualified in the 50 freestyle and should be a contender again in that event, as well as the 100 freestyle. Pike will also be instrumental in both freestyle relays.
Junior Megan St. John qualified in the 500 freestyle and comes into this year swimming five seconds below the state cut in that event. Her early-season times are right on the cut time in the 200 freestyle.
Sophomore Claire Walsh returns after qualifying with the 200 freestyle relay team last year. She'll be a regular for the freestyle relays again this year, and should contend for an individual berth to state.
Meghan Crowley will be one of the team's senior captains, along with Pike. After playing an important role for the program the past three years, she'll again be an integral part of the team in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke. Frydrich will likely take advantage of her versatility in other events as well.
Junior Martha Sitkowicz has a shot to qualify in the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke, while sophomore Katherine Pike has seen big enough time drops to make a run at qualifying in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle.
Senior diver Dana Magyrics came close to qualifying in diving last year and will try to push her scores over the top this year, while sophomore diver Sam Brown is also looking for improvement.
Junior Krystal Petrovich will contribute as the No. 2 breaststroker, sophomore Jo Jo Tabor will fight her way into some varsity events and freshman Natalie Benoy has shown state-caliber ability.
The Bulldogs have already had a chance to test the waters this season with a tri-team meet last weekend against powerhouse programs Homewood-Flossmoor-where Frydrich plied his trade before coming to RB-and Glenbrook South. The Bulldogs finished behind Homewood-Flossmoor 115-110, and ahead of Glenbrook South, which registered a score of 105.