BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh swimming and diving teams will return to the pool on Friday as they head to Easton to take on rival Lafayette in a meet that annually serves as a precursor to the 146th meeting of college football’s most played rivalry. The Mountain Hawks were off from competition last weekend but Lehigh returns to the pool looking for its third straight sweep of its rival to cap off the opening portion of the season.
“There is such a tradition about this spec meet,” said Lehigh head coach Rob Herb. “There’s a lot of energy
and a lot of excitement and a lot of preparation. Even though it may not always be a close meet, the rivalry takes charge of the entire experience."
Swimming and Diving: Lafayette Preview, Nov. 18, 2010
The Mountain Hawk men will be looking to continue their longstanding dominance in the series. Lehigh has won the last 19 meetings against Lafayette, including a convincing 214-84 triumph last season. The Mountain Hawks have enjoyed a strong start to this season, with wins in their first six duals, including triumphs over Rider and NJIT two weekends ago.
“There was some apprehension with the men early in the season but they’ve totally turned it around,” Herb said. “Strong attitudes, strong commitments and strong racing have changed all that. I thought West Chester was going to be difficult meet, but it ended up being easier than I thought. Rider turned out to be the same way. Our guys are steamrolling right now.”
Leading the way for Lehigh’s men has been junior Chris Toth, who has thrived in the distance events, while sophomores Tyler Lareau, Alex Aboud and Frank Cuzzola have been solid in the backstroke, breaststroke and sprints respectively. Juniors Kevin Shoemaker and Angelo DiGiacinto have also emerged in the butterfly events.
“Usually our guys talk about sweeping every race,” Herb said. “This year it’s not as likely because Lafayette has three very good swimmers that could upset any of our guys at any single moment. Being ‘on’ as we would be for any other big meet on Friday is vital.”
On the women’s side, Lehigh won its second straight over its rival with a 194-104 victory last season. The Mountain Hawk women enter the rivalry meet at 2-2 and, but they were very competitive in losses to West Chester and Rider.
“With our women, the competition is a little stronger but they’re doing really well when it comes to actually racing,” Herb explained. “We’re competing but we’re not being clown out. They know they’re making headway every meet.”
As he approaches Friday’s meet Herb expects the success of Lehigh’s women to depend on a group effort. Junior Priscilla Barletta has been one of the top performers and may swim some more freestyle instead of her normal butterfly. Freshman Giovanna Patafio will lead Lehigh in the distance events while freshman Stephanie Yaszemski and Emily DiDonato lead the way in the breaststroke. Herb will also rely on seniors Allison Montanye and Kristen Keenan to continue their success in the sprints.
“I have the women’s race scored a bit closer,” Herb notes. “My confidence is that our women are going to go in there dominate, but any slip-ups for either team can make a big change in that.”
Lafayette will take part in its first dual meet on Friday after opening the season with a pair of quad meets. The Leopard women are 1-5 after beating American and falling to Bucknell and Navy at a quad meet in Lewisburg, Pa. on November 6. On the men’s side Lafayette is 0-6 with losses to Seton Hall, Drexel and Loyola plus the three previous Patriot League opponents.
“There’s a lot of momentum on our end. The guys don’t want to let it go. The women are continuing to build on it. The swimmers we have, especially freshmen are buying into what it’s about and that’s going to make a big difference.”
The 32-event meet gets underway Friday at 6 p.m. from Lafayette’s Ruef Natatorium in Easton, Pa.