Spielman’s dives help Rochester to title
Sara Spielman did her share when the women’s swimming and diving team at the University of Rochester captured its fourth consecutive Liberty League championship.
A former team captain at Belmont High, the Rochester senior diver earned a personal-best 426.8 points in the 3-meter board event, establishing a program record and capturing third place in the Dec. 1 competition at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Spielman, honored as Diver of the Week by the University Athletic Association for the second time this season, also provisionally qualified for the NCAA Division 3 championships. The regional qualifier will be held March 1-2 at Ithaca College.
A provisional qualifier last year, when she shared the league’s Diver of the Year honors with teammate Megan Braun of Sudbury, Spielman is up for the challenge.
“Last season, we had to send in a videotape to a panel of judges who chose the top 20 divers for the NCAAs, but now the process has changed so at least I can go to Ithaca with a chance to qualify in real competition,” said Spielman, who did not make last year’s list.
“I wasn’t really disappointed because going into the season I wasn’t sure if I could qualify provisionally, so when I did, that made it a breakthrough season for me and motivated me for this year. And setting the record has given me even more confidence and something more to build on.”
Rochester diving coach Greg Brandes said he was impressed with Spielman’s performance at the league meet.
“Sara has been a consistent diver all four seasons, she continues to improve, and she is an outstanding student-athlete,” he said.
Spielman, who is on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in neuroscience and a minor in psychology, stayed in Rochester last summer to work at a job in medical research. She kept sharp training with a local club team, Green Rip Diving.
“Coach Brandes has had faith in me, always telling me that I had the potential to qualify for the NCAAs. I want to push and challenge myself because there’s always something to improve upon,” said Spielman.
A four-time Middlesex League All-Star in high school, Spielman was third in the state diving meet her junior and senior years. She also swam the 100-yard backstroke and butterfly for Belmont High coach Ev Crosscup.
“It was nice to be able to contribute that way in dual meets,” said Spielman, who is aiming for medical school and a career as a pediatrician.
Coppola, Longwell earn captain roles
Worcester Polytechnic Institute men’s basketball coach Chris Bartley has not appointed team captains for almost a decade, but sophomore guards Marco Coppola of Watertown and Sam Longwell of Acton changed his philosophy.
“Their impact goes well beyond statistics, and being named captains says a lot about their leadership and commitment to our program,” said Bartley, a former assistant at Babson College whose team was 10-0 at holiday break, WPI’s best start since 2006. This week, the Engineers debuted at No. 19 in the D3hoops.com Top 25 poll.
“They work well with our freshmen and sophomores and with our upperclassmen, so they are a big part of our team chemistry.”
Coppola, a Watertown High grad named to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference second team last winter, has averaged 19.8 points per game this season despite a nagging injury, while Longwell (Acton-Boxborough Regional High) was at 17.3. Both were connecting on nearly 50 percent of their shots.
They are joined on the roster by senior Joe Wesoloski (Arlington Catholic), the team’s starting center, and three players from Shrewsbury: junior forward Chad LaBove and sophomore guard Matt Harrington, who both attended St. John’s High, and sophomore forward Will Michalski (Shrewsbury High).
“They come from winning programs and were well-coached and that makes my job easier,” said Bartley, who graduated three starters from last year’s 20-7 team that won the ECAC Division 3 tournament.
“I thought this would be a rebuilding season. I’m surprised, especially after we played seven games in 15 days and won them all, so they’ve really impressed me with their mental toughness,” said Bartley, whose team resumes play Dec. 30 against Colby-Sawyer.
He said Wesoloski, who leads the team with 18 offensive rebounds, has been a force on the boards, on defense, and setting picks. Harrington, he said, has played exceptional defense off the bench.
He called Michalski a superb athlete who is realizing his potential, and LaBove, who has hit 12 of his 15 shots, the consummate role player.Continued...