Mount St. Joseph junior Christine Sipos powers her way to victory in the 100-yard butterfly during last Tuesday’s meet. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In one of their first meets of the new year, Mount St. Joseph swimmers squared off last Tuesday evening against the newest team in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies, Villa Joseph Marie Academy.

“Villa Joe,” from Holland in Bucks County, is not to be confused with Villa Maria, the longtime AACA champions and statewide power from Malvern. Still, the Jems have had a good turnout for their initial season in the sport, including some truly strong swimmers to serve as a foundation for the fledgling franchise.

The Magic, more numerous and experienced, started a little slowly, but soon overtook their guests to earn a 55-38 victory, evening out their dual-meet season record both in the AACA (1-1) and overall (3-3).

One of the Mount’s 200-yard medley relay teams was a little overeager at the start, and their disqualification opened the door for the Villa Joe quartet of Meredith Pastor, Liz Goldner, Emily Messina, and Alexa Fabri, who won in two minutes, 4.91 seconds. In second was the MSJ foursome of junior Brynn McGovern, freshman Julia Comerford, sophomore Maggie Schoeller, and freshman Katie Zimmerman.

When the Jems’ Fabri followed up with a victory in the 200 freestyle (in 2:05.79) ahead of freshman Liz DeGroat and senior Lexi Meister of the Magic, the visitors led the meet, 11-7. The Mount began to turn things around in the 200 individual medley, getting a one-two finish from sophomores Steph Eble (2:27.53) and Schoeller while Pastor placed third for Villa Joe.

The Jems countered with a winning effort in the 50 free by Messina (26.61 seconds). She topped the Magic’s Jen Lehman (a senior) and Zimmerman, and that got the visitors back within two points in the meet score at 18-16.

The Mount moved away for good with one-two performances in both the butterfly and the 100 free. First in the fly at 1:04.87 was junior Christine Sipos, and Meister was runner-up ahead of the visitors’ Liz Walton. DeGroat won the 100 free in 59.59 with Eble close behind, and third went to VJM’s Pastor.

Next, Villa Joe collected its last individual victory of the evening when Fabri won the 500 free in 5:36.84. Second and third were junior Georgia Kelly and freshman Rachel Sandquist of the Magic.

The freestyle sprinters were back in action for the 200 relay, where Meister, DeGroat, Lehman, and Eble combined for the win in 1:48.90.

The Mounties won the final two individual events through the efforts of sophomore Haley Sannem in the backstroke (1:07.27) and senior Julie Sowa in the breast stroke (1:15.10). The Magic also took second in the breast stroke thanks to Comerford, while McGovern placed third in the backstroke. For the Jems, Messina was second in the back stroke, and Goldner was third in the breast stroke.

Electing to swim the final relay, the 400 free, on an exhibition basis, Mount St. Joe collected no team points in the event. Meister, freshman Katelin Cordero, DeGroat, and Eble won the actual race, but their time was unofficial.

“We were able to move some people around and try some different things,” said Mount head coach Janet Pudlinski. “I think Liz DeGroat, who is a freahman, showed again what a strong competitor she is, and Julie Sowa had a good race in the breast stroke. This was her best time in-season.”