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WMass girls swimming championship preview: Northampton eyes second straight title

Erin Voss and the Northampton girls swim team will defend their sectional championship Sunday at Springfield College.

Erin Voss and the Northampton girls swim team will defend their sectional championship Sunday at Springfield College. Purchase photo reprints »

After winning the Western Massachusetts Swimming & Diving Championships last year, the Northampton girls team will look to repeat its success Sunday at Springfield College.

With a number of top swimmers and three strong relays, the Blue Devils, who went 10-1 during the season, should contend for the title. Westfield, which finished second last year, is another contender. The meet begins at 9 a.m.

“I’m pretty confident in how well we will perform,” Northampton coach Jim Hirtle said. “We’ve performed well when we’ve needed to. I think we’re there. The kids have got the right mindsets, (and) I think (the swimmers) are well-prepared.”

Last year, Northampton won the championship by a point over Westfield, with the relays playing a large factor in the team’s performance.

That could be the case again. Hamp is the top seed in the 200-yard medley relay (1:54.88) with Westfield No. 2 (1:56.84). The Blue Devils are second (1:45.58) behind Longmeadow (1:45.18) but ahead of Westfield (1:45.62) in the 200 free relay. Northampton is No. 1 in the 400 free relay (3:45.49), well ahead of No. 7 Westfield (3:58.97).

“Each swimmer has to step up and be part of (the meet),” Hirtle said. “These teams want to come race us, and if they can, swim faster than us and win as a team. Every team is going to have that goal. Everybody is coming to challenge us, and we need to rise to that occasion.”

Sophomore Erin Voss has repeatedly risen to the occasion for Northampton. Voss is the top seed in the 200 free and 100 backstroke. She finished the season with a top-three time in eight events.

Hirtle said that Voss will make a large impact on the meet, but she can’t win the meet all by herself.

“Erin helps us win,” he said. “Having a talented swimmer who will keep contributing in large amounts is great, but Erin can’t win the meet. We have to win the meet. (Everyone) knows they all have to step up.”

Northampton will look to get top performances from Kerry Fleming (second, 100 free; third, 200 free), Maela Whitcomb (second, 200 IM; fourth, 100 back), Maggie Miller (third, 50), Kaitlin Travers (fourth, 100 breast). Katie Helly got the Blue Devils off to a good start with a victory in diving on Friday.

Easthampton’s Jessica Harper will look to close out her career with two more championships Sunday. The senior is the No. 1 seed in the 50 free and the 100 fly.

Other top performers include: Holyoke Catholic sophomore Kristyn Popowski (first, 500 free), and Belchertown’s Bryanna Veroneau (second, 100 breast; third, 100 free) and Helen Hale (third, 100 fly).

Belchertown is third in the 200 medley relay and third in the 400 free relay.

Amherst will be led by Sadie Logan (fourth, 100 free) and its 200 free relay (fourth).

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