Missing your top swimmer -- especially someone of Verity Abel's caliber, makes a huge difference.

The Staples girls swimming team found out the hard way Wednesday in a 102-83 home loss to the Norwalk-Brien McMahon co-op team (1-0) to drop to 1-1.

The sophomore Abel was out because she was sick. She saw the doctor and was told not to swim for two days.

"It [losing to Norwalk] was not upsetting at all," Staples coach Mike Laux said. "We were missing our best swimmer."

Norwalk won 10 out of 12 events. If Abel was in the lineup and based on her normal times, she would have won the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle and anchor the Lady Wreckers to victory in the 200-meter medley and 400-meter freestyle relays.

"If Verity was there, the meet would have been a lot closer," Laux said.

Sophomore Gabby LeBlanc won the 100-meter breaststroke for Staples with a time of 1:23.76).

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"It was the whole team motivating me," LeBlanc said. "We didn't do as well as we did in the past and we tried to get as many firsts, seconds and thirds as possible."

Anita Vohra (1:27.76) and freshman Jessi Taets (1:28.44) placed second and fourth, respectively in 100-breaststroke.

Senior Michelle Mastrianni delivered the Lady Wreckers' other win by 148.05 in diving. Sophomore Anna Violette (133.2) and freshman Olivia Crosby (116.4) took second and fourth in diving.

Staples started the meet by placing two-three in the 200-medley relay. Freshmen Stacy Kaneko, Taets and Jordan Santarella and senior Gabby Wimer (2:12) took second and junior Alexis Teixeira, LeBlanc, senior Caroline Valerio and junior Rebecca Raab (2:14) were third.

Abel's absence was felt in distance freestyles. Instead of scoring high in them, the Lady Wreckers were outpointed in them with junior Sarah Cooperman being their top swimmer. Cooperman was second in the 400-free (4:57.12) and third in the 200-free (2:21.28).

Despite not grabbing first in the 200-meter individual medley, Staples won the event 9-7. LeBlanc (2:42.77) led the Lady Wreckers by taking second and Santarella (2:45.53) and junior Patricia Maragos (2:50.76) were three-four.

Wimer swam hard in sprinting events but took second in the 50-meter freestyle (29.10) and 100-meter freestyle (1:03.84) as she was topped by Lady Bears sophomore Lauren Czulewicz.

"She got off to a fast start and I wasn't able to catch her in the end," Wimer said.

Taets took third in the 50-free (30.21), and Kaneko was fourth in the100-free (1:07.36).

Valerio was second in the 100-meter backstroke (1:16.08) and third in the 100-meter butterfly (1:15.55). Kaneko took third in the 100-back (1:16.53), and Santarella (1:16.02) was fourth in the 100-fly. Taets, Raab, sophomore Jocelyn Krim and Cooperman led the 200-freestyle relay (2:03.58) to second place and LeBlanc, Santarella, Cooperman and Kaneko powered the 400-free relay (4:20.82) to second.

Although Norwalk won 10 event, Staples would have finished in a tie if it went one-two in the 400-relay.

"I have no complaints, the girls swam well all the way through, and it was close to the end," Laux said.

Laux' charges were also pleased.

"It was difficult, but considering our best swimmer wasn't here, we did well," LeBlanc said.

Wimer said, "It was disappointing but everyone did their best and I'm proud of the girls. It was a shock not to have her [Abel] and we weren't prepared for it. We changed the lineup around and put up a good fight."

Even in defeat, the Lady Wreckers showed improvement.

"It was tough but it was a good meet," Wimer said. "A lot of girls swam better times than we did at East Lyme. Looking at it from a time standpoint, we're proud of everyone."