Local products Anne Bucca and Kelsey Buonaiuto will be joined by Melody Bush, Madison Harris, Cecelia Henry, Tessa Lindner, and Erica Naumann in a sizeable class that hails from all over North America.
"Every class that we bring in changes the dynamic of the team," said Farina. "Between both teams, you're losing eight athletes and bringing in 12 new ones that will ultimately make up about 30 percent of the team. With that in mind, we look for a certain type of well-rounded student-athlete who can thrive in this environment and fit our program and university. We really feel like we have 12 kids that fit that profile."
One of seven newcomers on the women's side is Annie Bucca, a three-sport varsity athlete who has been competing in the pool for the past four years at Bishop George Ahr High School in Edison, N.J., where she also earned letters in track and cross country. An All-Conference and All-Area selection in Middlesex County, the New Brunswick native was part of a 200-medley relay team that broke the county record. Bucca has also been a part of the Village Swim club team for the last five years, serving as a captain on the squad.
"Annie's a local kid who should easily qualify for the conference championships in both breaststroke events," Farina said. "She will be a nice addition who will help make breaststroke one of our strongest events next year given that she'll be joining Kerrie [Kolackovsky] and Megan [Mallon]. We're very excited to have her coming in and that could be a very potent 1-2-3 punch for us."
In the same mold as many past Pirate swimmers, Kelsey Buonaiuto will join Seton Hall after establishing herself as a force in the pool as well as the classroom at Miller Place High School. The Miller Place, N.Y. native is a five-time All-Suffolk County performer where she has placed in the top-3 in the 100-yard backstroke in each of the past five years, highlighted by a county championship effort in 2011. In 2009, she earned All-State honors in the event after ranking seventh in New York. A longtime member of the Three Village Swim Club, she qualified for the National Club Swimming Association (NCSA) Junior Nationals event on three occasions. In addition to her athletic exploits, Buonaiuto is a standout student who is a member of the National Honor Society and was selected as an Academic All-American in 2011 and a Scholastic All-American in 2012.
"Kelsey comes to us out of as a very strong backstroker out of New York," said Farina. "She should be a BIG EAST qualifier in multiple events and has the chance to be a scorer in the 200-back as a freshman."
Following in the footsteps current SHU impact freshmen Rae Congdon and Leah Mayer, Melody Bush will come to South Orange by way of Ontario, Canada. Bush has competed for the past three years at John F. Ross, located in her hometown of Guelph, and enjoyed a breakout year in 2012. Most notably, she competed at the Canadian Olympic Trials and proceeded to set a number of career-best marks. A versatile swimmer who has proven proficient in the backstroke freestyle and individual medley, Bush met Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) standards in six different events despite being just a junior in high school. Also within the last year, Bush served as the anchor for the gold medal-winning 4x100 freestyle relay team and captured two bronze medals (50-free and 100-back) at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) Championships.
"Melody could potentially be a BIG EAST scorer for us in three different strokes as early as her first year," said Farina. "We're losing a school record holder in Andrea Shuba but to bring in someone as fast as Melody is, who can also contribute in freestyle and IM, is without question a huge boost for the women's team."
"Getting Kelsey and Melody to go with Cora [Meehan], I think our backstrokers can really challenge the breaststrokers for the strongest on the team," Farina continued. "With them coming in and Cora having a year of experience under her belt can make us really dangerous in the backstroke next year."
Another multitalented competitor, Maddie Harris, will travel up the east coast to join the Pirates after completing her career at Forest High School in Ocala, Fla. Despite being at Forest for only two years, she was twice named a team captain and went on to earn back-to-back top point scorer awards for a team that went unbeaten on the way to consecutive county and district championships. Prior to attending FHS, Harris re-wrote the record book at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Va. where she still holds eight of 12 records despite departing after her sophomore campaign. In her final season at GHS, she ranked sixth in the state in the 200-IM and 10th in the 100-breast, taking home All-Virginia Swim Team honors. Harris' talents are not limited to the water as she is a four-time Academic Award recipient and received the FHS Principal's Award for boasting the highest GPA among senior student-athletes.
"Maddie is someone we are very enthusiastic about because she is a very versatile athlete in the pool," stated Farina. "She's another girl who will give us as coaches the luxury of options heading into meets because of how capable she is from freestyle to backstroke, breaststroke and IM, so we'll really be looking for her to step up."
Making her way to the east coast by way of Missouri will be Cecelia Henry, a product of the Visitation Academy of St. Louis and the nationally-renowned Rockwood Swim Club in Ellisville. Primarily a butterfly/IM competitor, Henry swam the finals in the 200-IM and 100-fly at the last two NCSA Junior National Championships for Rockwood. She also reached the Missouri High School State Championships in the backstroke as well as the butterfly and will add a multifaceted skill set to the Pirates' roster.
"Every recruit that we brought in not only has their main event, but can swim other events as well and Cece fits that mold perfectly," said Farina. "One thing that we look for is versatility and Cece can bring a lot to the team in the fly, IM and also help us out with some freestyle events as well."
A four-year letter winner at Sun Prairie High School in Wisconsin, Tessa Lindner will add a potent punch for the Pirates in butterfly and individual medley events. During an accomplished high school career, Lindner has qualified for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) State High School Swim Championships for the past three seasons as an individual while also making three appearances as a part of relay squads. Her most recent run at the state final proved to be her most successful, as she emerged from the 2012 meet as the Big 8 Conference Champion in the 100-fly and broke her own school record in the 200-IM. Previously in 2010, Lindner and her team All-State Honorable Mention honors in the 200-free relay.
As a member of DeForest Aquatic Club, Lindner competed at the 2012 USA Swimming State Finals and placed seventh in the 100-fly with a time that was just off the NCSA Junior National qualifying standard. Much like her fellow signees, Lindner has combined athletic success with academic prowess and is also a member of the National Honor Society.
"Tessa is very talented in the sprint freestyle and 100-fly," lauded Farina. "She is very tall and powerful, so I think the potential is there for her to get a lot faster in college, specifically in a power event such as the 100-butterfly."
Hailing from Middletown, Conn., Erica Naumann will be continuing a family tradition when suits up for SHU next fall. Erica's brother Nick competed for the Pirates from 2007-2011 and another brother, Tyler, is currently a junior on the men's team. An outstanding swimmer in her own right, Erica holds the Mercy High School 500-yard freestyle record and was part of a record-breaking 200-yard freestyle relay squad in the fall.
"Erica has had two brothers swim for us and we're really excited to bring her in as well," Farina said. "I expect her to help solidify our middle-distance freestyle, especially with Brenna [O'Keefe] graduating. We're looking forward to adding her to team with [current freshman] Leah Mayer to provide some depth for us there next year."
Prior to the eventual arrival of these future Pirates, SHU will bid adieu to four seniors currently on the roster. Marielle O'Connor (Allentown, Pa.), Brenna O'Keefe (Hyde Park, N.Y.), Andrea Shuba (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Alie Zelenky (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) will all be honored for their contributions to the program prior to the meet this Saturday, January 26, against Marist College. The meet is scheduled to begin at Noon with senior ceremonies slated to commence at around 11 a.m. at the Arthur E. Imperattore Natatorium.
In addition to "Senior Day," the Pirates have teamed up with the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) and will wear blue caps to help raise awareness in association with the "Swim for MS" initiative. For more information on the event and how you can get involved, click HERE.