Ionna Sacha is making waves in her first season with UNC Swiming and Diving

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The swimming pool at Butler-Hancock sits empty ahead of a swim meet hosted by the Bears. Photo courtesy of

Ioanna Sacha has had some hardships in her life.
But through swimming she has become a strong, talented young woman.
Sacha wakes up at five in the morning, practices from 6 to 8, goes to class at 9:30, then practices again.
Sacha is a freshman on the UNC swim and dive team, and the only way she can go is upward.
She is a freshman at UNC from Athens, Greece. She’s quiet, shy and holds the UNC record in the 200-yard backstroke at 1 minute, 56.78 seconds.
“She has a good natural feel for the water, but she also is very driven and focused,” coach Lisa Ebeling said. “She really wants to be good so she does the right things in practice.”
Sacha started swimming at an early age through swim lessons with her brother. She contemplated giving it up later when she was stricken with pneumonia, but the environment and warmth of the water kept her swimming.
Like all swimmers, Sacha enjoys certain events more than others. Her favorite event — predictably enough — is the 200 back.
“I don’t know why I like it so much,” she said. “I guess it just fits me.”
In swimming, what takes a swimmer from good to great is often small mechanical things.
Flip turns, starts, breath control, pacing, stroke rate and mental fortitude may seem small, but when the difference between a gold medal and missing the podium altogether is less than a second, they make a world of difference.
Sacha also wants to improve and become a more complete swimmer by improving freestyle and butterfly strokes for her individual medley events.
“I came here to UNC because of (coach) Lisa (Ebeling) and the program she is building here,” Sacha said.
The UNC coaching staff is very excited about being here in Greeley.
“In swimming, one of the greatest assets you can have is wanting to be good, and she definitely has that,” assistant coach Alec Scott said. “As far as the physical and natural talent goes, the sky is the limit for her.”
Even with Sacha being so good now her coaches see no end in to her improvement in sight.
“She can get a lot better,” Ebeling said. “She came in from a background where she did a high level of volume, so we have done a lot of work with her this year to develop strength and translate power into the pool and work on the technical details of her kick outs, turns and starts.”
With Ebeling and Sacha at the helm, the UNC swimming and diving team is looking to continually improve and become a great program in the next few years.
“I am very excited. The girls we have now have really bought into the culture and they are working hard and we see improvements on a daily basis,” Ebeling said. “And it is getting noticed by the outside swimming world so we are getting more and more interest from recruits, and our recruiting classed will only be getting stronger.”



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