UMBC Selected to Repeat as Women’s Swimming and Diving Champions
Boston University collected the final two first-place votes and 32 points to narrowly miss the top spot. The University of New Hampshire comes in at a close third with 26 points, while the Univeristy of Vermont and Binghamton University tied for fourth with 18 points. Stony Brook University (11) and the University of Maine (7) grabbed the bottom two spots to round out the poll, in which coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Last season, UMBC rode a core of juniors to replant itself at the top of the America East. The Retrievers will look to those seniors now to repeat as champions. Abbey McKenney (Wilmington, Del./Brandywine), the Most Outstanding Female Swimmer at the 2011 championship meet after winning three individual golds, is back to build on her already impressive career. She set an America East, UMBC and pool record in the 100-yard freestyle and earned Mid-Major All-America Honorable Mention from CollegeSwimming.com. The junior tandem of Tara Morrisette (Somersworth, N.H./St. Thomas Aquinas), who took silver in the 200-yard fly, and Jennifer Kotonias (Burtonsville, Md./Academy of Holy Cross), who captured gold in the 400-yard individual medley, will be key in a UMBC repeat.
The Retrievers foiled Boston U.’s attempt at a three-peat last year but the Terriers return several important components from the 2011 second-place team. Junior Melinda Matyas (Budapest, Hungary/Eotvos Jozsef Gimnazium), the 2011 America East Diver of the Meet, led a sweep of the top-three spots in the one-and three-meter diving events. She also set a conference scoring record in the three-meter event. Sophomore Chelsea Glinchman (North Brunswick, N.J./Mount Saint Mary Academy) took silver in the diving events last year. Seniors Kristin Connors (Mansfield, Mass./Bishop Feehan), who placed second in three separate events at the championship last year, and Katie Radin (Hanover, Mass./Notre Dame Academy) are primed for big seasons in the pool.
New Hampshire could threaten to take the top spot come late Februrary because of a solid base of performers, none more solid than sophomore Lauren McCandless (Macungie, Pa./Emmaus). The 2011 America East Rookie of the Year holds or shares four conference open records including the 1000-and 1650-yard freestyles. She won the conference title in the 1650-yard free in a school and conference record time in 2011 and is one of four all-conference Wildcats who return for another season in Durham.
Vermont tied for the fourth spot in the preseason poll welcoming eight new freshmen and new diving coach, Cathy Seward, to the pool in Burlington. Junior Kailey Gardner (Ithaca, N.Y./Ithaca) finished just behind McCandless in last year’s 1650-yard freestyle championship but did set a school record in the process - one of 11 that the Catamounts broke in the championship meet. Senior Caitlin Dowd (Setauket, N.Y./Ward Melville) will also have a big role on a Vermont squad that has finished fourth or higher in each of the last four conference championship meets.
Binghamton joins Vermont in the fourth spot in the poll. It was an exciting off-season for the Bearcats who saw their junior star, Tiffany Siu (Hong Kong, China/S.T.F.A. Leung Kau Kui), participate in the World University Games for her native Hong Kong. Siu joins Kaan Tayla, who competed for his native Turkey in 2006, as the only Bearcats to participate in that event. Last year, she won gold in the 200-yard butterfly, placed second in the 400-yard individual medley and third in the 500-yard freestyle at the championship meet.
Stony Brook’s only all-conference performer from a year ago, Renee Deschenes, transferred to Pittsburgh, so the Seawolves will need to ride the leadership of 11 returning seniors. Darcy Heuser (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) helped the 200-yard freestyle relay team to a third-place finish at the championships in a school record time.
Maine’s squad rounds out the preseason poll for 2011-2012 and will look to end a streak of three straight last place finishes at the conference championship meet. The Black Bears’ only top-10 finishers at the 2011 championships return this season. Sophomore Kara Capossela (Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich), who earned fifth place in the 1-meter dive, and junior Kara Dubiel (Carefree, Ariz./Montgomery), who claimed tenth place finish in the 1650-yard freestyle, will lead Maine.
The America East Conference Championships will be held Feb. 23-26 at Boston U.’s Aquatic Center.