Ashley Stanek will be taking over the helm of the Tamaqua Blue Raider swimming program this season. Stanek will have the difficult task of replacing long-time coach Eric Lech, who had a very successful stint with the Raiders.

Stanek is far from a stranger to the program, however, as she will benefit from coaching under Lech and learning the system last season.

The Raiders' girls program finished last year as the Schuylkill League champion. With plenty of returning talent, experience and know how, Stanek would like to continue that winning tradition with this year's team.

"It's a little nerve-racking," Stanek admits. "But both our girls and boys are excited to get started and have brought in their own individual goals, which hopefully translates into team success again."

Gone from last year's boys team (9-5, 4-2) are six swimmers, while the girls' team (13-1, 6-0) graduated five talented student-athletes. But with the pool of talent returning, Stanek feels confident in her teams' abilities to duplicate similar success.

"It's going to be hard to live up to Coach (Eric) Lech and the things he accomplished while coaching here at Tamaqua," Stanek said. "But he's been very helpful in maintaining the program. That help, along with outstanding work from my assistant coaches Adrian Bumbulsky and Eammon Farley, have created a lot of excitement as we try to get the season started on a good note."

"Last year, I was an assistant coach under Eric (Lech) and I am so thankful for the opportunity because I learned a lot. He's such a great coach and I got a lot from seeing how he did things."

While the Tamaqua diving program will not be returning this season due to the diving board base breaking and an inability to repair it at the moment, there is plenty of willing and able veterans coming back to take to the pool and accomplish goals of their own.

On the boys' side of things, Stanek looks to senior Zack Yachera (free) and junior Tyler Butkus (fly, free) to lead the team as captains.

"I'm really impressed with the leadership they've displayed so far," Stanek said. "They're doing a really good job with the other kids and helping the new kids fit right in."

Other than the captains, Stanek looks to exchange student Chanming Pooriyapun (free), four sophomores in Jacob Kropp (back, free), Zachary Oliveria (free), Gabe Bumberger (free, back), and Matt Stanek (free). Two freshmen, Ethan Eberts (free, back) and Gage Whalen (free, back) are also looking to contribute to the team's points.

The defending league champ girls' program returns three senior co-captains in Andrea Whitley (free), Ashley VanBuren (free) and Megan Wagner (back, IM). There are three juniors in Caroline Kanaskie (free), Denae Starry (free) and Emily Bumbulsky (breast, IM, fly), six sophomores in Brianna Nordwick (free), Carly Trovinger (breast, IM, back), Joann Butkus (fly, free), Makayla Boyle (back, free), Miranda Amey (IM, free) and Nichelle Puckalavage (freast, free), and three freshmen: Savannah Szabo (breast, free), Amber Gulick (free, breast) and Danielle DeCindio (fly, free).

"We're definitely going to be lacking depth on the boys' side and that could be a potential problem," Stanek admitted. "But with the athletes we have, I'm impressed with their attitudes towards the sport. They are excited to be at practice and are working incredibly hard."

"The goals seem to be the same throughout the roster, as everyone wants to get more wins as a team, than losses. They'd also like to improve their times as the season goes along and hopefully they can get tapered down towards the end of the season so that they peak at the right time of the year."

With the right attitude, a strong work ethic and more-than-capable leadership in their coaches and captains, look for these Blue Raiders to be a force in the water.