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Swimming: Pope John totals eight first places and advances to non-public B semi-finals

Pope John’s women’s swim team picked up eight wins in their 105-65 quarter-final win over St. Elizabeth on Monday at Hardyston.

“The girls really swam with their hearts out there today. It’s been two years since the last state meet and the girls were up for the challenge. The leadership of Lauren Koppelmann and Zoe Rizzo was outstanding,” said Pope John’s head coach, Thomas M. Kane.

Third-seeded Pope John was led by four wins from junior Abby Panzarella and a trio of wins each from Leah Bauder and Lauren Koppelmann.

Panzarella had individual wins in the 200 freestyle (2:10.19) and 100 butterfly (1:04.78). His clip in the butterfly marks a season record in doubles.

“Abby Panzarella is an incredibly diverse swimmer who can help her team anywhere on the meet sheet,” Kane said.

She also contributed to relay wins in the 200 FR (1:50.65) and 400 FR (4:05.92) as first in each event.

She was accompanied by Alexandra Acito, Sofia Keller and Bauder in the 200 freestyle relay. Acito, Koppelmann and Julianna Kuznar joined Panzarella in 400 FR.

Bauder helped the Lions with a first-place finish in the 100 freestyle (57.01) and 100 breaststroke (1:11.85). The two-strokes are his fastest dueling this winter.

Koppelmann took the 200 IM by 11 seconds with a timestamp of 2:18.40 and won the 100 by six seconds (1:02.05). It was also a memorable day for Koppelman, who posted season-best times in both races.

Rizzo was the Lions second-place finisher in the 200 Qualifying Relay (2:16.25) alongside Kuznar, Maddie Kappelmeier and Summer Guerini.

For 11th-seeded St. Elizabeth, they started the race with a time of 2:10.83 behind Julia Riccio, Caitlin Flanagan, Sophia Formanes and Emma Vanderhoef.

Katie Acken contributed to a 50 free run victory for the Panthers (27.13). Kasey Desiderio recorded the other individual victory, clocking 5:37.28 in the 500 freestyle.

Pope John, this year’s Sussex County champion, will advance to the non-public B semi-finals on February 21 against second-seeded Mount St. Dominic.

“With only five swimmers from Pope John having experience in a double state tournament competition, I was very impressed with how the girls performed. With another week to focus on refining starts and turns, I’m sure the girls will be well prepared for Monday’s semi-final encounter,” Kane said.

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PJ Potter can be reached at [email protected]