Cavaretta's arrival coincides with Newfane Lady Panthers' pool success
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Winning breeds happiness, or — in the case of veteran Newfane swim coach Jim Cavaretta — happiness breeds winning.
The Lady Panthers have dominated the Niagara-Orleans League over the last five years, surpassing Albion as the league’s girls’ powerhouse soon after Cavaretta took over in 2008. It was a joint, positive effort by both the former Clarence and Williamsville East coach and a very supportive school district.
“My first year here, we finished 12-2, with our only losses coming to Albion, which had been the league champion for five years in a row, undefeated,” Cavaretta said.
“I think that was the driving force. We had a lot of talent here and for years, they’d been told they weren’t any good. On my second day here, I told them ‘There IS a lot of talent here. You ARE good.’ “
Since then, Newfane’s girls have dominated the league, winning every title along the way, including this year, where they currently stand 9-0.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the desire and the drive that the school gives to the program,” Cavaretta said. “Here, we have a brand new pool and they treat me like a rock star. I told the athletics director (Doug Ames) when I came here, ‘I won’t ask for many things, but what I do ask for, I expect to get.’ ”
Cavaretta said the overwhelming support he receives from Newfane school administrators are direct and indirect. “Mrs. Christine Tibbetts, our superintendent, and principles Tom Stack, Tom Adams and Pamela Leibring and board members — they all come to the meets here. There’s 300-400 people here at home meets. It’s unbelievable.”
Newfane senior Lillian Masters believes. She’s been with the program through its transition from league unknown to four-year dynasty — six years in all.
“It’s fantastic. Everyone knows who you are when you walk around. All the coaches respect you,” said the honor student Masters, a future biology major at either Nazareth or Brockport.
Masters, along with junior standout Kiki Dy, Brianna Gaughran and recent graduate Brianne Strong, hold the school record in the 400 free relay (3:53.38) and the 200 free relay (1:47.55).
“Even the players on other teams are very friendly and encourage us to do our best,” Masters said. “It’s just been a great experience.”
Junior co-captain Gaughran has been with the Newfane girls swim program for five years. She saw the program grow by leaps and bounds when Cavaretta took over.
“I think the change was we got more determined. We started opening the pool up earlier in September. Anyone in the community was welcome. It got a lot more younger kids involved. I started as a seventh grader,” Gaughran said.
“It gets more of the wider spectrum of kids coming in. Anyone can try it and hey, you never know. You might be a natural.”
Despite losing six seniors to graduation this coming spring, Gaughran is confident the program can continue to be competitive. “Hopefully with a lot of younger kids, we’ll still be okay,” she said. “We just want to be number one and finish on top. We’ve done it for four years. Why not do it again?”
Cavaretta said Strong and Julia Wright were tough losses to graduation last year, “but I was taught go with walks through the door.
“Kiki has led this team right from the beginning. When I first got here, Kiki and Brianna told me I was going to stay until they were seniors and they’re juniors now,” Cavaretta said.
“You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken feathers. These kids make me look good. We’ve got a lot of talent here and I might get credit, but it’s their desire.
“I’ve had my share of winners at Clarence, where we helped produce 13 All-Americans and I’ve had success at Williamsville East where my boys team was ranked fifth in the state. I know what it takes to win and I just try too impart that on them. Fortunately, they listen to me. They still think the old man might know what he’s talking about — and it’s fun.”
Rounding out Newfane’s 2012-13 girls swim roster are seniors Lauren Dechambeau, Erica Lutz, Leah Platt, Shannon Shaw and Anna White; juniors Mallory Buzynski, Kate Bochnewetch, Kendall Schmeelke and Sarah Starkweather; sophomores Whitney Atkins, Victoria Harrington, Katelynn Nola and Kayla Sattelberg; highly-touted freshmen Allie Debiase and Lydia Gaughran; eighth grader Mia Ludwig and seventh graders Meghan Mietlicki, Emily Nola and Lauren Seymour.
“Allie and Lydia have a lot of talent, a lot of desire and a lot of heart,” Cavaretta said. “I see them as having bright futures. Our biggest competition usually comes from Roy-Hart and I think these two are the types of girls who will step right up into lead roles as we move forward.”
Next up for Newfane is a league finale at Barker on Thursday that will have no bearing on their first-place finish, then the N-O championship meet at Akron on Tuesday, and finally the annual Genesee-Region/ Niagara-Orleans Crossover Meet on Feb. 1 at Akron.
“I told my assistant after my first year here going undefeated, ‘Don’t get used to it, because it’s only happened two other times in 40 odd years of coaching,’ ” Cavaretta said. “But the kids here bought into it and they believe. It’s still fun after 42 years and I don’t see the end coming soon. I’m afraid if I quit, I’ll get old.”