eschickler@bcnnew.com

Throughout the season, Staples girls swimming coach Mike Laux said Wednesday's home meet with Ridgefield would determine whether the season is a success for his team. Laux felt if his team beat Ridgefield, it will finish with a .500 record.

Staples didn't disappoint its coach and raised its record to 5-4 with a convincing, 102-84 victory over the Tigers.

"I think it was a great meet and good to see everyone come together as a team, both by swimming well and supporting each other," said Laux. "The girls knew it was a big meet and stepped up to the plate."

Lady Wreckers senior captain Natalie LeBlanc said, "We had a lot of positive energy from the whole team because we knew it was a big meet. We pushed each other and it drove us to success."

The swimmers credit Laux for motivating them to raise their performance level.

"I go with what Laux says," said Staples senior captain Cat Friel. "I think he's proud of us and he makes us want to work hard. We wanted it for Laux and for ourselves and we're motivated by him. He says it's OK if we win or lose and this makes us want to do our best. He makes us more comfortable and I swim better when I'm comfortable than when I'm nervous."

The Lady Wreckers won 11 out of 12 events and swept two with its only loss coming in the 100-meter butterfly. Senior captain Helene Neuhaus won two events and her first victory came in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 27.62 seconds. Sophomore Gabby Wimer placed third (29.10) in the 50-free.

"It's a sprint and even if I'm tired, I have to go hard in the 50-free," said Neuhaus.

Her second victory came in the 100-meter freestyle (1:01.73) and led a sweep in that event. Senior captain Charlotte Katter (1:05.42) and junior Stephanie Nussbaum (1:06.21) took second and third in the 100-free.

"I've been training for so long and being close to my best time is an accomplishment," said Neuhaus. "I was able to work it and it's about pushing myself to the next level."

While Neuhaus ruled freestyle sprinting events, junior Molly Loftus dominated in distance freestyle, grabbing her first triumph in the 200-meter freestyle (2:19.44). Friel (2:24.16) and junior Margot Bruce (2:25.34) took second and fourth, respectively.

"I just tried to keep up with those girls," said Loftus. "We knew it was important and I tried to pull ahead."

Loftus' second win came in the 400-meter freestyle (4:58.65) and led a sweep in it. Bruce (5:03.93) and Friel (5:04.98) were second and third, respectively.

"I just tried to stay ahead," said Loftus. "We were happy with the 400-free because we swept and we tried to motivate each other because we knew it was going to be a close meet."

Friel said, "I've been cross training for rowing and I've been erging and running, which helped with my endurance."

LeBlanc was the team's third double-winner, capturing her first victory in the 200-meter individual medley (2:35.13). Freshman Sarah Cooperman was third in the 200-IM (2:40.39).

"I've been working on all my strokes lately, which helped," said LeBlanc.

Her second victory came in the 100-meter backstroke (1:11.32). Freshman Alexis Texeira (1:17.35) and sophomore Nicole Brouillet (1:19.71) were third and fifth, respectively.

"It was near the end of the meet and the race was close," said LeBlanc. "I knew I had to give it everything I had."

Junior Schaefer Andrews won diving (200.4). Senior Megan Kratky (161.05) and sophomore Michelle Mastrianni (151.53) took third and fourth in diving. Cooperman won the 100-meter breaststroke (1:23.48) and freshman Anita Vorhaus (1:29.03) took third.

Staples won all three relays. Neuhaus, Cooperman, Loftus and Katter won the 200-meter medley relay (2:25.96) and LeBlanc, Vorhaus, Wimer and Nussbaum took third (2:16.69). Katter, Wimer, Nussbaum and Friel won the 200-meter freestyle relay (2:01.09) and senior captain Lizzie Rubel, junior Caitlin Wiederecht, senior Camilla Reinhardt and Bruce took third (2:07.56). In the 400-meter freestyle relay, Katter, Neuhaus, LeBlanc and Loftus won it (4:20.94) and Nussbaum, Bruce, Friel and Cooperman placed second (4:30.65).

Wimer (1:11) led the Lady Wreckers in the 100-fly, placing second. Wiederecht was fifth in the 100-fly (1:22.26).

"The team worked hard and was motivated," said Katter. "We drove each other to want to do better and we all knew we wanted to win this meet. We went out there and did our best and it paid off."

LeBlanc said, "Everyone was excited about the meet and that's why we swam well."

Laux is confident that this victory will help Staples in its regular season finale against Darien next Wednesday and during championship season. He said, "This will help them realize how good of a team they are."