Oct. 20, 2011
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut men's swimming and diving team opens up its 2011-12 season on Saturday when it plays host to the annual Husky Invitational. That event, which features both men's and women's teams, will feature UConn, Providence, Vermont, Fordham and Maine and begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Wolff-Zackin Natatorium in Storrs.
Along with the UConn women's team, the program is recognizing the National Breast Cancer Foundation Research. They are doing a collection table in the Student Union and collecting money at the two home meets this month, the Husky Invite and the next week's Big East Quad meet. UConn will also wear specially designed shirts and pink racing caps for these events.
The men's team has some big shoes to fill following a great campaign last season. A record of 8 -1, a great showing at the mid-season Terrapin Cup, a first-ever win over in-state rival Yale and a fifth place finish at the BIG EAST Conference Championship made for a successful season. The great news for head coach Bob Goldberg is that the cupboard is not bare. The graduation of UConn's top backstroker Alex Davidson along with Tomasz Sobek and Tim Krompinger will be a hard loss for the Huskies, but there are returning swimmers and new additions that can help soften the blow.
Starting with the backstroke events, the Huskies will rely on sophomore Keith Piper (Naperville, Ill.). "Keith had an outstanding training year last year and made great strides with good times," says Goldberg. "He is, however, even better than last season's times indicate and will need to show that for us." Piper can be a top eight finalist at the conference meet.
Piper will have good support in freshman Sawyer Franz (Pine, Colo.), who posted a solid 1:48, 200 backstroke last year and will be a factor. Junior Sean Cook (Doylestown, Pa.) is on the verge of breaking out and as a junior will be a key. Redshirt sophomore Justyn Alexandre (Wallingford, Conn.) has potential to score especially in the 100-yard. Senior Mitch Dansky (Wichendon, Mass.) can also be called on for help, especially in the 200-yard.
The breaststroke was weak for the Huskies last year and two freshmen will be a key for this event. Freshman Lachezar Shumkov (Sulfia, Bulgaria) has great potential in the water and great times from his home in Bulgaria to back that up. Rapidly improving freshman Wyatt Boliek (Greenville, S.C.) looks faster than originally thought and will certainly challenge for a top spot. Sophomore Asher Garcia (Pinecrest, Fla.) returns with a year of seasoning and will be very competitive. As a taper swimmer, senior Matt Connor (Ventia, Pa.) will be strong at the championships meets.
The butterfly could be a real strength for UConn. All the "fliers" return including junior Nick Cerra (New Hyde Park, N.Y.), junior Joe Glowacki (Erie, Pa.), senior Nick Majtenyi (St. Catherines, Ont.), sophomore Chris Alvanos (Chester Springs, Pa.) and sophomore Ben Yacano (Glen Allen, Va.). Franz and Dansky can also be used in the 200-yard butterfly and sophomore Kyungsoo Yoon (Toronto, Ont.) and Garcia will be competitive in the 100-yard as sprinters and for a relay spot. "The fly events can be a great event for us this year," says Goldberg.
Sprinting was a strong point for the Huskies last year with the men's 400 freestyle relay posting times under 3:00 several times last year. Yoon, junior Karim Zayed (Montreal, Que.), Piper and sophomore Sean Battle (Allison Park, Pa.) all return and are all good. Pushing them for spots are junior Sean Cook (Doylestown, Pa), Cerra, Majtenyi and Shumkov.
The distance events will also remain strong. Dansky, Alvanos, sophomore Zach Coleman (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.), Franz, Majtenyi, freshman Luke Zalewski (Burlington, Conn.) and Zayed make up a formidable force. It will be interesting to see freshman Franz compete for the Huskies after posting very respectable distance freestyle times last season in high school. "If Sawyer is as competitive as he appears, that frees up Majtenyi and Dansky to swim in a lot of places. We immediately become a better team," says Goldberg. IM's will also be solid as Garcia, Connor, Franz and Coleman fill in those spots.
The returning divers on the team are junior Grant Fecteau (Delmar, N.Y.), who shows unparallel drive for success for the season according to head diving coach John Brasnsfield. He was injured mid-season last year and missed the championship season, but is determined to reclaim his position among the top divers in the BIG EAST Conference and score at the NCAA Zone Championship.
Junior Anthony Cortright (Wallingford, Conn.) is coming off a successful first year of diving at UConn. Cortright aims to continue adding difficulty to his competitive list. With refined moves and increased awareness, he should score at the BIG EAST Conference Meet, and possibly test the water at zones.
"Our team has a singular goal in 2012," says Goldberg. "We are not resting for the entire season and totally aim for our best meet at the BIG EAST Conference Championship. We hopefully advance some swimmers to the NCAA's. Our relays could have a solid chance this season to make the NCAA cut. If this approach costs us a dual meet during the year we are prepared for that, but I think this team is competitive enough that we will rise to the occasion even unrested and be pretty good all year in regular season meets."
The UConn schedule is another plus in the eyes of the coach. The team has very competitive meets with Army, Pennsylvania, Colgate and Dartmouth and conference foes Seton Hall and Georgetown. Competing in the Pitt Invite in the BIG ESAT Conference Championship pool is a plus, as is long course meets at Pitt and the US Nationals. UConn also has a great training trip to Puerto Rico again as in 2011.
"Our schedule will prepare us for excelling at the right time. We are excited," says Goldberg.
Another plus for the Huskies is the current coaching staff. Returning with Goldberg, now in his 24th season at UConn, are Tyson Hurst and Janelle Atkinson-Wignall. "As second season coaches with the Huskies, Tyson and Janelle have a great perspective of where we can and would like to go. Volunteer coach Ilya Larin from Russia brings a new and interesting perspective to practice! We are happy with the current team, we are recruiting swimmers that can take us even higher and laying a groundwork for a truly competitive team on the national level. Our facilities are great, our university is great and the potential for the next 10 years is exciting!"