March 5, 2014
By Marya Fratoni
Heading into this past season with two young teams, UConn men's and women's swimming coach Bob Goldberg didn't know what to expect from the Huskies as they made the transition from the Big East to the American Athletic Conference. The men's team fielded seven freshmen, while the UConn women's team headed into the season with freshmen making up half of its roster.
Both teams sustained success this year though, as the men's swimming and diving team finished with a perfect 6-0 record in dual meets, while the women's swimming and diving team recorded another winning season, ending the year at 4-2. Their success during the regular season carried over to the conference meet, which was held in February at the Ralph Wright Natatorium in Louisville, Ky.
Ten members of the UConn men's swimming and diving team earned All-Conference honors after the Huskies earned a third place finish at the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship. Freshman Chris Girg (Burbach, Germany) took first place in the 500-yard freestyle at the conference meet with a program-best time of 4:19:24, while junior Sawyer Franz (Pine, Colo.) was also an individual winner, claiming first place honors in the 400-yard IM (3:47.88).
Girg was a force for the Huskies all season, and Goldberg predicts things are only going to get easier for him a year after he made the transition from Europe to the United States.
"He's going to continue to get better," Goldberg said. "He's already good and I think he's just beginning to scratch the surface of where he is going to be."
The UConn men's swimming and diving team won three noteworthy meets this season against opponents (Dartmouth, Pennsylvania and Army) that defeated them last year. The Huskies hosted all three schools this past fall and took advantage of swimming in their home pool after falling to each on the road last season.
The Huskies were led by six seniors, who improved every year since joining the UConn program. Keith Piper (Naperville, Ill.), Sean Battle (Allison Park, Pa.), Asher Garcia (Pinecrest, Fla.), Zach Coleman (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.), Anthony Cortright (Wallingford, Conn.) and Ben Yacano (Burlington, Conn.) will all depart Connecticut this year and Goldberg couldn't be happier with what they brought to the team in their four years with the Huskies.
"They've been rock solid people for the whole four years they've been here," Goldberg said. "They were really consistent performers each year."
On the women's side, the Huskies earned a fourth-place finish at the conference meet and saw several great swims from junior Chinyere Pigot (Miami, Fla.). Pigot won the 50-yard freestyle with a school record time of 22.81 and she finished third in the 100-yard freestyle after swimming the event in 49.43.
Additionally, freshman Christine Pedersen (Vinterbro, Norway) had a spectacular freshman season and Goldberg expects her to keep moving forward in the same direction.
"She improved as the year went on and had a good conference meet," Goldberg said. "I think another year of experience under her belt is going to make her even better."
Kati Kyle (Lithia, Fla.) and Catherine Chang (Savage, Minn.), the two seniors on the women's team, once again did a great job of leading the Huskies in and out of the pool and Goldberg appreciates how they finished off their careers at Connecticut this past season.
"Katie has been terrific in the backstroke events throughout her time here and Catherine swam her best times going out the door so we're really happy about that," Goldberg said.
Goldberg understands the importance of establishing new leadership every year and he hopes this season's juniors will embrace that challenge next year. With so many underclassmen, there is a lot of promise for both teams as they look to build even more momentum next season.