Swimming & Diving Teams Host Stony Brook On Saturday
Oct. 27, 2005
AMHERST, Mass. - The UMass men's and women's swimming and diving teams will host the first of three home meets this season on Saturday at the Jospeh R. Rogers, Jr. Pool located in Boyden Gymnasium when they host Stony Brook. The meet will begin at 11 a.m. with the diving events, while the swim events are slated to begin at 1:00 p.m.
This will be the second meet for both teams as they opened up the 2005-06 season two weekends ago at the UConn Invitational.
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MEN'S SEASON PREVIEW
The accolades manifested themselves throughout the program however, as head coach Russ Yarworth earned his seventh A-10 Coach of the Year award. Yarworth begins his 27th year as UMass head coach, a career that also includes eight New England Championships in addition to the A-10 titles.
The Minutemen lost a talented group of seniors from last year, and the youth in the pool is quite evident. With just one senior on the roster, the squad will look to its talented underclassmen to step up and lead the '05-'06 edition.
Yarworth states that having such a young roster will present challenges in the upcoming season, but feels that the returning swimmers and divers will keep the competitive level high.
"It's a new challenge for me in that we have a very young team with 14 newcomers and essentially no seniors, with the exception of Ross Clay who is a fifth-year senior but did not swim last season. We're developing a new commitment and culture of hardwork so we can continue the championship tradition," said Yarworth. "Our sophomores and juniors have experienced nothing but championships, so they know what kind of work it takes to get to that level and maintain. Even though we are a young team on paper, we have experienced swimmers returning which gives us a nice blend."
Having so many newcomers on the squad will present some challenges for the Minutemen, but Yarworth feels the progression of the team through the preseason has been good.
"All early responses in preseason were very positive. All the freshmen and transfers have a great attitude and have a lot of talent. Some of that talent is undeveloped coming in this season and that's where the challenge comes in for me," said Yarworth. "The biggest challenge with having a roster like we do is the amount of teaching versus coaching that is done. The kids who are coming in may have trained at a high level, but I always find that they are not yet students of the sport. Because of that we are teaching them to understand stroke mechanics, have good starts and turns and in general to know why they are training." Part of the success of the Minutemen over the last several seasons has been a unique team cohesiveness that Yarworth feels makes the team a true championship-caliber squad.
"The first thing I see from that group is that we have a great team attitude even though we have so many new people. They have learned a lot in the preseason about what it takes to be on a collegiate swim team and what sort of commitment that is. As they keep that in idea in mind, they will start taking their training and fitness to the next level," stated Yarworth.
"Greg Chartier is a local kid from Amherst, so I think that has been wonderful to have him come here. He's been an Atlantic 10 Champion as a freshman, was injured about two weeks before the Championship meet as a sophomore and has returned motivated to get back to that championship level. He is our best IM'er and possibly our best distance freestyler. He is really one of the cornerstones of this team," stated Yarworth.
"Mike Herald finaled in two events last year at the A-10 meet in what was a much improved sophomore season. He is a very good team leader, organized and is considered the CEO of the team. He's doing a good job developing as a sprinter and I think he has a chance to move from a two-event finalist to a three-event finalist. We're going to transfer him some from swimming the 200 fly to probably the 100 freestyle and he is embracing that challenge."
According to Yarworth, Hogue is one of the true motivators on the team. "Jake Hogue is also a junior and is one of the toughest kids on the team as far as his day-in, day-out work output. He is a natural choice for a captain. He's maybe not the most talented kid in the water, but he is one of the toughest and when it comes to the Championship you can count on him to give 100 percent and be a finalist."
"I think A.J. will do good things this year. He's a swimmer with a football player mentality. He's always working to keep the team motivated and ready to compete. He won the 100 freestyle last year at the A-10 meet and I think this year at the championship meet he's going to be the guy to take the team on his back with that aggressive mentality to get going," said Yarworth.
Rappe returns as the top diver on the squad.
"I also think R.J. will also have another good season. He's the opposite of A.J. in that he is just quietly consistent. He won the one-meter dive last year at the A-10 meet. The biggest thing he does for us is bridge the gap between being two separate teams - one swimming and one diving - to being a united team. He helps bring that total team mentality to us which I think is part of that championship tradition."
In looking ahead to the Atlantic 10 Meet, Yarworth feels that St. Bonaventure will again be one of the favorites to challenge the Minutemen. In the A-10 Preseason Coaches Poll, UMass was once again picked to win the league for an unprecedented sixth consecutive time and ninth time overall.
"I would say St. Bonaventure is our main challenge. La Salle is going to be much improved as is George Washington. Adding Saint Louis to the conference makes the meet a more front-line swimmer meet instead of a depth meet. We've always won the meet because of our depth, but as you add more teams, you get more top swimmers in a race. Our depth in turn will have to get faster for us to maintain our level of competition."
Not to be outdone however is sophomore A.J. Vozella, who won the 100 freestyle at the Atlantic 10 Championships last year. Vozella also placed third in the 200 free and was named the team's Rookie Of the Year and Most Improved Swimmer. Vozella ranks eighth all-time in UMass history after winning the 100 freestyle and 10th all-time after finishing third in the 200 freestyle last season at the A-10 Championships.
Junior captain Greg Chartier is not only a top returning 500 and 1,000-yard freestyler, but is also one of the most durable swimmers on the team, posting top times in several events. The tri-captain holds the third fastest time in school history in the 400 individual medley, the eighth-fastest time in the 500 freestyle and the sixth fastest time in the 200 butterfly.
Jeremy Dam had the team's top time in the 1,650 freestyle, finishing eighth at the A-10 meet. Junior captain Mike Herald took sixth place in the 50 free at the A-10 Championships and is considered one of the top short-distance freestylers on the team. Dam is the ninth-fastest UMass performer all-time in the 1,650 freestyle, while Herald has greatly improved over the last two seasons and adds balance and consistant performances to the Minuteman line-up.
Yarworth adds a talented group of newcomers to the freestyle events: Andy Berthaume, Greg Braun, Nate Bromage, Chris Chambers, Michael Prout, and Mike Silvia. Despite being young and new to the program, Yarworth feels this group will greatly bolster the freestyle events for years to come.
Individual Medley Events
Junior Evan Swisher earned First-Team All-Atlantic 10 honors a year ago, and is the second-ranked 200 IM swimmer on the team after finishing fifth at the A-10 meet. Swisher is also one of the top backstroke swimmers in school history, ranking fifth in the 100 back and sixth in the 200 back after his performances last season at the A-10 Championships. The junior posted 12 event wins and 25 top-five finishes during the 2004-05 season.
Junior captain Jake Hogue was the team's S.T.U.D. Award winner last year, and is one of the top individual medley specialists going into this season. Hogue finished fourth in the 400 IM at the A-10 Championships and seventh in the 200 IM. His top 400 IM time is good enough for seventh on the school's all-time list. The tri-captain had seven event wins and 26 top-five finishes last season and was the team's top-ranked breaststroke swimmer.
Tristan Partridge, Brad Sloan and New Hampshire transfer John Weaver add to the individual medley group. At UNH, Weaver took third at the America East Conference meet in the 100 breaststroke, eighth in the 400 individual medley, and ninth in the 200 breaststroke. Weaver is also an excellent student as he was named to the America East Winter/Spring Honor Rolls and the Commissioner's Honor Roll (3.50 GPA or higher).
Hogue posted seven event wins in the breaststroke events last year and was the team's top-ranked breaststroker, taking third in the 200 breaststroke at the A-10 meet.
Pokorny-Campbell took eighth in the 200 breast at the A-10 meet, and finished ninth in the 100 breast. His top 100-yard time is good enough for ninth on the school's all-time list.
Sophomore Zack Priest adds depth in the event, as he finished 20th in the 100 back and 24th in the 200 back at the A-10 meet. Priest posted six top-five finishes as a freshman and his ability to score points in his events will be key in UMass' run for another conference title.
Two swimmers look to be key in the backstroke as Nick Bassolino and Braun are the top newcomers in the event. Bassolino was a two-time YMCA National Qualifier, while Braun can pull double-duty as evidenced by his Fairview High School record-setting 200 freestyle relay performance (1:28.05).
Butterfly Cordes is the top returning butterfly swimmer, as he finished second in the 100-yard fly at the A-10 Championships after placing fifth in the event the year before.
Herald took 15th in the 200 fly at the A-10 meet and ranked third on the team in the 100 fly.
Sophomore Pat Seeley finished ninth in the 100 fly at the A-10 Championships, and also placed 24th in the 200 fly. Seeley had seven top-five finishes last season and recorded his best all-around meet of the season at Fordham where he took second in the 100 butterfly and fifth in the 200 butterfly.
Priest took 12th in the 100 fly at the A-10's, his only race in that event all season.
Freshman Nate Bromage attended Palmer High School (Mass.) and won the Massachusetts State Championship in the 100-yard fly. Bromage also holds the school record in the 100 fly and 50 free. Bromage, Partridge, and Nick Raithel will also see time in the pool in the butterfly.
Rappe became the first Atlantic 10 diving champion in UMass history last year when he took first in the 1-meter dive at the A-10 Championships. His 1-meter dive score stands as the fifth-best in UMass diving history, while his 3-meter dive score at the A-10 meet was good enough for second place at the meet and fourth-best all-time in school history. Rappe took 15th at the NCAA Diving Regionals in the 3-meter dive and placed 27th in the 1-meter.
Scimone is a transfer from Western Kentucky where he earned Diver of the Week honors in the Sun Belt Conference after winning a meet over Evansville.
Scimone is a 2003 graduate of Brockton High School (Mass.) where he was named New England Diver of the Year.
WOMEN'S SEASON PREVIEW
It may seem like an easy goal to focus on, but the Minutewomen will be competing against a league that is as tough as ever and adds Saint Louis to the mix.
"We want to move up another spot at the Atlantic 10 meet. We finished fourth last season and that was nice, but to move up to third would be even better," said Newcomb. "That's been the goal of the returning kids and we've really brought in the freshman to believe that as well."
UMass returns a squad with five seniors and seven juniors among the upperclassmen. That sort of leadership combined with a talented group of newcomers should provide the Minutewomen the depth needed to compete among the A-10 elite.
"As far as the team goes, the returning kids are in a great position now. I'm excited by the condition they came back in from the summer," Newcomb stated. "Our influx of highly talented freshmen has everyone excited about the potential to achieve our goals for the season."
For Newcomb, who enters his 22nd season at UMass, the schedule features three meets where he thinks the team will get a taste of the competitive level showcased at the Atlantic 10.
"The Army and Fordham dual meets are two that highlight our schedule this year. Also the December meet at Brown where we face Brown, Princeton, New Hampshire, and Florida International should be an unbelievable competitive mid-season meet."
UMass will be strongest this season on the diving boards, in the middle distance freestyle and in the butterfly. The Minutewomen return several veteran swimmers and divers in those events including junior Mary Jenkins who was the team MVP a season ago. Jenkins won the Atlantic 10 one-meter dive as a freshman and is a three-time second-team all-conference performer.
"I think we have a pretty well balanced team in every event and have people who are going to be able to contribute," said Newcomb. "Our strongest events, however, are the fly events, middle freestyle, and dives with the experience we bring back."
Looking ahead to the conference meet in February, Newcomb feels the two heavy favorites are the traditionals in Richmond and St. Bonaventure. The real excitement, however, will be the third spot and the battle among six teams in that area.
"The conference is definitely going to be interesting this year. I think Richmond is the definite favorite again and I don't think anyone would argue with that. St. Bonaventure looks to be a good pick for second with what they return," stated Newcomb.
"After that, I think you have a handful of schools who are going to be in a dogfight: UMass, George Washington, Fordham, Xavier, and Duquesne. Throw into the mix Saint Louis and you have five or six teams fighting for third. That makes it fun - it's now anybody's ball game and we're going into the meet looking for a battle. It's something that we're going to be focusing on all season. I think it is going to make for a very exciting four day meet where you never quite know what's going to happen day-by-day."
Depth will be a key factor at the meet because of the addition of Saint Louis which means not only are Newcomb's returning veterans going to have to produce, but the newcomers will have to come of age quickly.
"Because of being a bigger conference this year, we're going to have to focus on placing our top 10 or 12 swimmers. Our depth is going to help us some, but getting swimmers in the finals is what will be key."
"We have a good group of captains this year with Aimee, Kaitlyn, and Corey taking the leadership roles," said Newcomb. "They have done a good job getting the team going in the early part of the season and making a team environment established from the beginning."
For Newcomb, however, he feels that the focus of leadership on the team is not just contained in that trio, but in the entire senior class.
"I have always regarded each year as the `Seniors' Team. We our seniors - Aimee, Kaitlyn, Corey, Melissa Stango, and Kelly Hoffrage - all to take ownership of the team so that they can go out with the best season possible."
Junior Nicole LeBarge ranks third all-time in school history in the 50 free and swam the lead leg of the school-record setting 200-yard freestyle relay team which took third last season at the Atlantic 10 meet.
"We're looking for Nicole to continue to improve and do well in the sprints, she is one of our anchors in those speed events," said Newcomb.
Along with LeBarge, sophomore Allison Volpe returns after a great freshman season.
"Allison has done a lot of work and shown great improvement in the 50 free as well as the 100 fly. I think she and Nicole will do some damage in the sprints."
In the middle distance freestyle events, Newcomb sees Bourassa and Hoffrage continuing their stellar careers with junior Laura Whelton also contributing immensely.
"Aimee and Laura, who has had a good preseason so far, will lead us in the middle to longer distance freestyle events."
Bourassa is one of the more versatile student-athletes on the team as she ranks among the top-10 all-time at UMass in four different events.
Whelton has shown improvement throughout her career. Her ability to continue to move up the ranks will be an asset to the Minutewomen. Newcomb expects newcomer Taryn Prout to also do good things in the distance freestyle events. Prout is an excellent student-athlete and is joined at UMass by her brother Mike who is a member of the men's swim team.
"Taryn has looked outstanding all fall and we are really looking for her to help us out in the distance events and longer backstroke events," said Newcomb.
Individual Medley Events
"In the individual medley, Kelly should be the force in that event as far as our returning swimmers. Sam and Colleen have looked very good as well."
Hoffrage ranks third all-time at UMass in the 200-yard individual medley and seventh in the 100-yard freestyle.
Demty was named the team's Rookie of the Year after a solid freshman campaign. She is a versatile swimmer ranking ninth in the 200-yard individual medley, fourth in the 200-yard butterfly and sixth in the 100-yard butterfly.
"Jackie is a breaststroke and individual medley specialist who is very good in the longer events. That will be another addition to our depth and dimension," said Newcomb.
"Our breaststroke group is led by Melissa Stango who is one of our seniors. This is a small group, but has a lot of talent," said Newcomb.
Stango has consistently been one of the top backstroke and individual medley specialists on the team and her experience and competitive drive will be invaluable to the newcomers.
"Our backstroke group will lose Susan, but we add Devon Moran who is rejoining us after a couple years out of the water. She has looked very good so far and should pick up some of the slack due to the loss of Susan," Newcomb stated. "Vanessa Fleguel returns as our top returning 200-yard backstroker and 200-yard flyer. She has looked very good with her backstroke in the preseason."
UMass adds freshman Emma Putney who Newcomb thinks will definitely be able to help out in the backstroke events this year.
"Liz was a consolation finalist in both fly events last year and I think she should be right there with Sam this year," said Newcomb. "Christa adds to our fly strength and should definitely excel in both fly's and the individual medley events."
Diving Newcomb considers the dives to be one of this season's team's biggest strengths with a strong one-two punch of Jenkins and junior Melissa Pond enhanced by newcomers Sarah Horstmann and Karen Upperco.
"The return of Mary, who took second on both boards last year and was the A-10 Champion as a freshman, and Melissa Pond, who was a finalist on both boards last year, will really benefit us throughout the year," said Newcomb.
"Karen and Sarah make our divers an unbelievable group. I'm really excited at their progress and I know our diving coach Mandy Hixon is very pleased with the prospects of our divers for the season."
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