GREEN  The Green Bulldogs embarked on a new season and a new journey with a small, determined band of swimmers and divers.

Through the first two months of the season, they’ve overcome their numbers disadvantages and the boys and girls teams have posted matching 4-1 dual meet records under new head coach Bev Poletta.

Poletta, who takes the reins from longtime head coach Mike Lazor, is confident in the 46 athletes on the boys and girls roster and that confidence has paid off thus far.

“We are a smaller team this year, but have a lot of swimmers who can score well in many different events,” Poletta said.

Lazor stepped away from the program during the offseason, having worked with Polletta the past few seasons as she served in an assistant coaching role. She’s been with the program since 2013 and has also coached the Green Barracudas YMCA program dating as far back as 2005.

That connection to the Barracudas has proven beneficial as well, given that she’s already worked with many of the swimmers with whom she now works as a varsity head coach.

“It's been a smooth transition moving into the position. Coach Lazor had a very well run program and it's an honor to follow such a well-respected coach,” Poletta said. “(He) and I have worked together for several years leading up to this season, and many of our swimmers swim year round for the Barracudas.”

To help in her new role, Poletta has three assistant coaches who have head coaching experience, as Mike Griggs (Perry and Canton McKinley), Amy Hovan (Hoban) and Cathy Spicer have joined the staff and begun working with a team that includes competitors such as Taylor Peterson, who has already broken the school records in both diving events this season, placing second in the Federal League championships with an 11-dive score of 352.75.

The boys team is led by, among others, Mason Doerrer (freestyle, backstroke), Parker Doerrer (freestyle, butterfly), Daniel Poletta (freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke), Eric Rohweder (freestyle, IM), Blake Renninger (backstroke, freestyle & IM) and Nate Byers (breaststroke).

With just 22 swimmers on the roster, versatility has been key for the boys and having athletes able to compete in a variety of events has allowed them to compete well against the likes of Hoover, Jackson and other tough foes they’ve encountered.

The girls, meanwhile, have 24 swimmers on the roster, down from 32 one season ago. They’ve gotten strong efforts from Riley Collinsworth (freestyle), Makena Miller (butterfly, IM, freestyle), Taylor Peterson (Diving), Maggie Pratt (freestyle, backstroke), Emily Gage (breaststroke, IM) and Amanda Bruno (freestyle, backstroke), among others, and for both teams, making sure that the entire squad is on the same page, supporting each other and working well together has been a focal point.

In that respect, the Bulldogs have counted on their captains to set the tone and keep a positive mindset even on the challenging days.

“Our captains, seniors Daniel Poletta, Emily Gage and Grace Vail, and junior Mason Doerrer, are working to build team spirit within a very individually competitive sport,” Poletta said. “This year's team has learned to work together and support each other while competing with, and in many cases against, their teammates.  The feeling of unity within this group of athletes is remarkable and I hope to see it grow throughout the championship season.”

That championship season refers largely to the postseason, but in a sense, could also reach back to late December, when the boys and girls both placed third at the Federal League championships. That allowed the Bulldogs to hit their goal of being in the top three at the league meet and sets the tone for them to pursue their next set of goals for the season, which include sending as many swimmers on to the district meet as possible and qualifying all of their relays to districts.

Some members of the team also have a berth at the state meet in their sights and although Lazor’s longtime tradition of allowing any swimmer who qualified for the state meet shave his head prior to the meet as a way of celebrating their accomplishment may have ended when he stepped down, a trip to Canton is still a reward worth chasing for a team that has battled the numbers game all season long and so far, come out on the winning side.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936


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