The Lehigh swimming and diving teams will open their seasons in New England this weekend as the Mountain Hawks will dive into the 2010-11 campaign with meets Friday at Providence and Saturday at Patriot League rival Holy Cross. Both Mountain Hawk squads posted winning records last season and both finished fourth at the Patriot League Championships. Based on last year’s results, both programs enter the new season with high expectations.
With back-to-back winning dual seasons under their belts, the Lehigh women are looking towards bigger things in 2010-11. The Mountain Hawks went 5-4 in dual meets, including a second straight win over rival Lafayette. Things really took off at the Patriot League championships, where Lehigh’s women set eight new school records en route to a fourth place finish, its best in six years under head coach Rob Herb.
Lehigh lost several high-scoring seniors to graduation, but Herb is excited about the talent that returns for the Brown and White this season.
“This will be a coming together year for the women,” explained Herb, who enters his seventh season. “We have a great group of freshman that will replace a strong senior class. Our current seniors are up for all challenges, and we have a large and strong junior class that is fired up about bringing our women’s program to new heights.”
Providing leadership for the Mountain Hawks will be senior sprinters Kristen Keenan and Allison Montanye. Both will be looking to improve in the individual freestyle events, but both were members of school-record setting relay teams, Keenan in the 800 free relay and Montanye in the 200. Taylor Foxworth is the third member of Lehigh’s senior class.
The real strength of this Mountain Hawks squad is in its junior class with features a number of top scorers and school-record holders. Priscilla Barletta owns the school record in the 200 free and will lead Lehigh in the freestyle and butterfly events. Paola Simon set a school record in the 100 free at last year’s Patriot League championships and should be a factor as well. Alena Pollitt and Lauren Armstrong will lead Lehigh in the backstroke events, while Alyssa Siano will be counted on to score points in the fly events. Elizabeth Marchese and Jill Rann complete Lehigh’s corps of juniors.
Lehigh’s sophomore class should continue to improve with a year of experience under their belts and a summer and preseason of hard work. Katie Brinkhoff and Katie Haycraft will again give Lehigh a boost in the sprint and mid-distance freestyle events. Both were members of two school-record setting relay teams from last year’s championships. Danielle Caruso and Emily DiDonato will solidify the breaststroke events, while Brooke Smalley will look to build on a strong Patriot League Championships showing in the fly.
Herb also welcomed five freshmen, four swimmers and a diver, who should make immediate contributions. Meredith Bayer has the potential to be an all-around force for Lehigh, while Katie Hommes will contribute in the fly events, Giovanna Patafio will fill a void in the distance events and Stephanie Yaszemski will see time in the breaststroke and sprint freestyle events.
On the diving boards, the Mountain Hawks welcome a new coach in Stephen Ferreira. He will work with returning sophomore diver Melissa Suggs and talented freshman Mercy Du.
The Lehigh men enter the new season on the heels of one of the strongest seasons in recent history. The Mountain Hawks went 9-1 in dual meets and set three school records at the Patriot League Championships, posting their sixth top-four finish in six years under Herb. The Mountain Hawks lost some key contributors to graduation, but return a number of determined, talented swimmers that should not be overlooked.
“This season will be a little more challenging than last year,” said Herb. “We’re a little smaller in numbers and lost some great seniors, but this is a team of racers and competitors. They will never go down without a fight.”
Leading the way for the Mountain Hawks will be the returning All-League duo of sophomores Tyler Lareau and Frank Cuzzola. Lareau posted the top individual finish for Lehigh at the Patriot League championships, taking second in the 100-yard backstroke with a school-record time of 50.06 seconds. He should continue to be a leader for the Mountain Hawks in the backstroke events. Cuzzola also earned All-League laurels and will lead Lehigh in the sprints. He was Lehigh’s top scorer at last year’s championships with 35 points, highlighted by fifth place finishes in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle events. Both sophomores were members of Lehigh’s 800 free relay team that broke a 19-year old school record.
The Mountain Hawks enter the season with four seniors on the roster. Matt Alford will be looked to score points in the 200 free and in distance events, Andrew DiPietro will provide depth in the sprints, and Billy Dunne will team with Lareau to give Lehigh two solid backstrokers. Jon Gorka rounds out the senior class for the Brown and White.
The junior class will be led by butterfly specialist Angelo DiGiacinto and Chris Toth, who will be a key point scorer in the distance events. Also joining the mix for Lehigh is junior Kevin Shoemaker, a fly and IM specialist and former state champion for Saucon Valley high school, who transferred to Lehigh from Marist.
Lehigh’s sophomore class made solid contributions as freshmen. In addition to Lareau and Cuzzola, the Mountain Hawks return five other swimmers, including Alex Aboud who set a school record in the 400 IM at the Patriot League Championships.
Herb as also brought in five talented freshmen, who join Shoemaker to give the Mountain Hawks six talented newcomers for the men’s program. The class of 2014 includes sprinters Chris Hoke and Matt Chrzanowski, breaststrokers James Heintzelman and Connor Cackovic and butterfly/IM swimmer John Keough.
“Our freshmen guys are talented and they will be competitive,” Herb contends. “We’re also adding transfer Kevin Shoemaker to the mix. This group is capable of winning a lot of races for us.”
On the diving boards, the Mountain Hawks welcome a new coach in Stephen Ferreira. He will work with the three returning Lehigh men in juniors Ryan Helfrich and Connor Styles and sophomore Mike Harshman, who should continue to improve with another year of experience.
The Mountain Hawks schedule will be challenging, with just two home meets, and tough road tests at Rider, Lafayette, Marist, Bucknell and Penn State among others. Herb insists that this team can continue to improve and have a successful year in 2010-11.
“This year’s women’s team will be focused on a season that will again see records fall,” he says. “We could be looking at the best women’s team in Lehigh history. If they work hard and race hard it will all pay off.
As for the men, Herb continued, ““Do not look past us, because if you do, we will run you over.”
Lehigh will open its season this weekend with a two-day trek through New England. The Mountain Hawks will face Big East member Providence Friday night in Rhode Island, before tangling with Patriot League foe Holy Cross on Saturday. Lehigh will open its home schedule on October 23 when it hosts West Chester at Jacobs Pool.