Georgetown Swimming and Diving, a Family Affair

GUHOYAS.COM Georgetown's swimming siblings.  Back row, left to right: Chris Ball, Don Ball, Claire Nugent, Liz Nugent, Laura Sytnyk. Front row, left to right: Jennifer Zocca, Jaclyn Zocca, Eileen Sytnyk
Georgetown's swimming siblings. Back row, left to right: Chris Ball, Don Ball, Claire Nugent, Liz Nugent, Laura Sytnyk. Front row, left to right: Jennifer Zocca, Jaclyn Zocca, Eileen Sytnyk

Dec. 14, 2005

"Swimming siblings keeping 'family' afloat at Georgetown," an article featured in USA Today

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Teams have tendencies to call themselves a family, but for the Georgetown swimming and diving team, that's just about right. The Georgetown swimming and diving team currently has four sets of siblings, truly making the swimming and diving program a family affair.

While it may be circumstance for some teams to have a pair of siblings, it is quite peculiar for any program to have four sets. This coincidence does not surprise Head Coach Bethany Bower who explains that swimmers tend to come from swimming families.

"To be a competitive swimmer, you have to spend a lot of time in the water," Bower said. "It usually helps to have someone close to you [like a sibling] to commit that amount of time to the pool and to being successful."

Senior tri-captain Eileen Sytnyk (Nutley, N.J./Mount St. Dominic) became a Hoya in the fall of 2002 and was shortly followed by her sister, junior Laura Sytnyk (Nutley, N.J./Mount St. Dominic) one year later. Eileen and Laura spend much of their free time together in addition to the time in the pool. Not only are they each other's "go-to person," but they doubled their wardrobe once Laura enrolled with Georgetown. Another added bonus for the two is seeing their parents twice as much.

When senior tri-captain Don Ball (Horsham, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) talks about his decision to come to Georgetown, he says, "It was the right place for me - the right location, the right size, all the values that are present at Georgetown - it's what I was looking for."

Well, younger brother, sophomore Chris Ball (Horsham, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) must have felt the same way as he proclaims this - his sophomore year - his fourth year at Georgetown as he visited Don so many times during his junior and senior years of high school. When they go home for breaks, they have their own world of inside jokes that even their family doesn't understand.

Junior Liz Nugent (Westport, Conn./The Hopkins School)and sophomore Claire Nugent (Westport, Conn./The Hopkins School) come from a long line of Georgetown alumni. They are the 11th and 12th, respectively, from their family to attend Georgetown.

Claire was determined to do her own thing and break the family mold of going to Georgetown. She was close to committing to Williams College when a family-visit to see older sister Liz changed her mind.

"I realized if I came to this college with Liz, I wouldn't be her little sister like I was in high school anymore," Claire explains, "I'd be part of a team and part of a bigger community."

Now that they are here together, the have continued their tradition of swimming the "Nugent Sister Relay," a term coined by the two in reference to the 200 yard medley relay, an event they hold the school record in with senior tri-captain Corrine Rhodes (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West) and sophomore Caitlin Colling (Monson, Mass./Monson).

Junior Jennifer Zocca (Summit, N.J./Summit) had been waiting for younger sister, freshman Jaclyn Zocca (Summit, N.J./Summit), to finally graduate from high school. Having seen the positive effect on her teammates' relationships with their siblings, she was more than eager for younger sister Jaclyn to follow her to Georgetown.

Jaclyn, it turns out, needed very little convincing as she proclaims, "I fell in love with Georgetown when Jennie was looking for schools."

The Zoccas have surely benefited from the two being at Georgetown. They used to split up meets and travel to half of Jennifer's and half of Jaclyn's meets, but now only have one trip to make and two daughters to support.

All the siblings feel that the best part of going to school together has been the strengthening of their relationship with their siblings. They all feel they would not be nearly as close as they are had their sibling attended another college.

Chris explains that his communication with Don would be suffering if they were not at Georgetown. "I'm not big on talking on the phone or on instant messenger, so I don't think we would communicate that much if we weren't both here."

"I think part of being closer and being at the same school is having those memories that we can bring home with us," Don adds.

The bonds extend well beyond the confines of McCarthy Pool in Yates Field House. The Sytnyks and Nugents are now close family friends because they share the common bond of having two daughters on the swimming team at Georgetown University. The familial atmosphere has encouraged more of the parents to come to swim meets and pulled them together as part of the Georgetown swimming and diving family.

Many teams will call themselves a family but the Georgetown swimming and diving program, in fact, has family ties.



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