(photos courtesy Dale Gerhard)
By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — The Middle Township High School girls swimming team was the higher seed and had earned quite a few more power points than Woodstown heading into Monday’s meet, so the fact that the Lady Panthers won wasn’t much of a surprise.
But the way Middle did it was awfully impressive.
The Lady Panthers set five school records and eight more personal-best times in rolling to a 101-69 victory over Woodstown in a South Jersey Public C playoff semifinal at the Special Services aquatics facility.
“The girls swam awesome,” Middle coach Dede Bosacco said. “We started resting after the CAL championship meet and I tried to tell them they might not feel great because they rested but they’ll be faster, and a lot of them were.”
The victory sends second-seeded Middle Township into a sectional championship meet for the second straight year. They’ll face top-seeded Haddonfield, one of the best small-school teams in the state, on Thursday at Gloucester County Institute of Technology.
Senior Sophia Bosacco, the daughter of the head coach, was part of three of the five new school records. She broke her own records with individual wins in the 200 freestyle in 2:03.50 and in the 100 backstroke in 1:03.87. She also joined Sophia Braun, Catherine Bostard and Ishika Patel in the 200 free relay, the quartet breaking their own school mark with a time of 1:46.39.
Patel also set a new school mark with a time of 1:05.15 in the 100 butterfly and Natali Ilieva posted a new school record with a time of 2:29.22 in the 200 individual medley.
Middle held just a four-point lead at 25-21 after three events but began to take control of the meet by placing first, second and fourth in the 50 freestyle behind Braun, Patel and Bostard, respectively.
Middle then went first and second in the 100 fly, with Sarina Wen placing second to Patel in the event.
Middle put the meet away in the next event, placing first and second in the 200 free relay. Ilieva, Wen, Samantha Braun and Julia Risko were on the second-place team.
Sophia Braun also won the 100 freestyle and Ilieva was first in the 100 breaststroke for Middle.
Middle is in the sectional title meet for the second straight season. The Lady Panthers lost to the same Haddonfield team they’ll face Thursday in last year’s South Jersey final.
“We’re looking to go up there and improve our times even more,” coach Bosacco said. “We’ll go at it for personal bests and maybe even break some more records.”
Middle had never reached a sectional final before last season. Coach Bosacco credited the team’s seniors for leading the way. She became head coach when those seniors were freshmen.
“My first year as a head coach I knew these seniors were a special group,” she said. “I could tell right away they were super competitive and they really wanted it. We kind of started from scratch together with that group and really built the team. They’re the heart of the team.”