eschickler@bcnnew.com

The Staples girls swimming team ended its dual meet season at 6-5 with a 104-82 home victory over East Lyme on Friday.

"It was a really good meet," said Staples coach Mike Laux. "It gets the team inspired because we finished the season with a winning record and everyone swam well."

Lady Wreckers senior captain Natalie LeBlanc said, "I think everyone was excited that we got to end the season on a good note. Everyone was pumped up and wanted to finish the regular season with a winning record. We knew it was going to be one of our closer meets, we worked hard and it paid off."

Three double-winners bolstered Staples as did two victories in relays. Senior captain Helene Neuhaus ruled sprinting events and grabbed her first victory in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 27.35 seconds. Sophomore Gabby Wimer took third in the 50-free (29.54).

"I was really pumped up because I heard East Lyme had a good swimmer in the 50-free," said Neuhaus. "When I hear I'll have a good race, I'm ready to get up and go."

Neuhaus' second triumph was in the 100-meter freestyle (1:01.59). Senior captain Charlotte Katter (1:04.61) and junior Stephanie Nussbaum (1:06.70) placed third and fourth, respectively, in the 100-free.

"I went out aggressively but I didn't go out too hard because I was needed in the 200-free relay [which was two events after the 100-free]," said Neuhaus. "I wanted to win the race but have enough energy in the 200-free relay because it was an important race in the meet."

Speaking of the 200-meter freestyle relay, Neuhaus anchored the quartet to victory (1:56.08), edging out East Lyme. Katter, Wimer and Nussbaum preceded her.

While Neuhaus dominated sprints, junior Molly Loftus was the Lady Wreckers' distance ace. Loftus grabbed her first triumph in the 200-meter freestyle (2:16.20). Junior Stephanie Nussbaum (2:26.5) and senior captain Cat Friel (2:27.8) took fourth and fifth in the 200-free.

Loftus won the 400-meter freestyle (4:48). Junior Margot Bruce (5:02) and Friel (5:14) took third and fourth, respectively.

LeBlanc was the team's other double winner but unlike Neuhaus and Loftus, she accomplished this in varying events with her first victory coming in the 200-meter individual medley (2:34). Freshman Sarah Cooperman (2:40.37) and Alexis Teixeira (2:53.57) finished second and fifth, respectively, in the 200-IM.

"I just worked on my strokes and there was a lot of positive energy on the team," said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc's second victory came in the 100-meter backstroke (1:09.87). Teixeira (1:16.73) and sophomore Nicole Brouillet (1:18.33) finished third and fifth, respectively, in the 100-back.

"It was about placing and this motivated everyone on the team to work very hard," said LeBlanc.

Staples began the day by taking second in the 200-meter medley relay (2:10.94) with Neuhaus, Cooperman, Loftus and Katter. Wimer (1:12) and junior Caitlin Wiederecht (1:21) took third and fifth, respectively, in the 100-meter butterfly.

One person who stepped it up for the Lady Wreckers was sophomore diver Michelle Mastrianni. Normally, Mastrianni is the third diver on the team but with senior diving captain Megan Kratky out because of an illness and top Lady Wrecker diver Schaefer Andrews out because of a prior commitment (the meet was scheduled at the last minute and Andrews wasn't notified about it until last Wednesday). Mastrianni did yeomen's work in finishing second (160.10). Bruce was fifth (117.95) in diving.

Staples clinched a tie in the 100-meter breaststroke with Cooperman (1:22.11) leading the way by placing second. Freshmen Tricia Maragos (1:28.15) and Anita Vohra (1:29.45) were third and fourth respectively in the 100-breaststroke.

All the Lady Wreckers needed to clinch the win in the final event was to have at least one of their entries finish the race. They did better than that by sweeping the 400-meter relay with Katter, Loftus, Bruce and LeBlanc (4:23.14) winning and the B-team of Nussbaum, Wiederecht, Friel and Cooperman (4:30.22) grabbing second place.

Next up for Staples is FCIACs with trials taking place today and finals on Saturday at Greenwich High.

"They did a good job against East Lyme," said Laux. "Our goal is to knock off a couple of teams that beat us this year and all the teams we didn't face [Norwalk and Westhill]."

Beating Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan may be a bit of a reach for the Lady Wreckers but they believe that their momentum could carry them to fourth place.

"We're going to see good races from everyone on the team," said LeBlanc. "I think we're a lot stronger than we think we are and we enter the championship season with a lot more confidence. We hope to place in the top group and show we're a good team despite the losses we had."