BETHLEHEM, Pa. – In another tradition of Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry week will be renewed Friday night in Easton as the Lehigh swimming and diving teams will compete against Lafayette at 6 p.m. at Ruef Natatorium. The Mountain Hawks will be looking sweep their rivals for the fifth straight year. The meet will be just one of several competitions between the two schools this week, culminating in Saturday’s football game at Fisher Stadium.
“The rivalry is full of tradition,” said junior Chris Hoke. “For two schools to be competing for more than 100 years is incredible. I am proud to be part of such a great tradition. This all adds an extra element to the meet.”
Hoke is a member of the men’s squad that has beaten Lafayette 21 straight times. Lafayette is currently struggling after being swept by Bucknell but this meet like any is no guarantee over a much improved Leopard squad. The long winning streak has not blinded the team of what they will need to do in the water.
“We are expecting our men to again go after this Lafayette team with a vengeance,” explained head coach Rob Herb, whose men have defeated the Leopards in each of his first eight seasons. “The team will be led by Frank Cuzzola, Chris Hoke, Demetri Karedis and Danny Bennett. We are looking to dominate the sprint and distance events. However, Lafayette is a much improved squad and Jim their coach is very good, so we will have several tight matches starting with the breaststrokes and the butterflys.”
The men’s team (1-1) will be looking for its second straight win after they downed Colgate 88-23 in its first Patriot League action of the year. Karedis led the way last weekend at the Big Al Open in New Jersey, repeating as the 50 free champion while competing against the likes of Princeton, Georgetown, Fordham and TCNJ. The squad is starting to gel, and the momentum from the dominate Colgate win could have been a spark.
“We have a number of young guys that are being asked to step in for the first time and we didn't get off to a great start losing at home against West Chester,” said Hoke. “Since then the team has grown up a lot and is starting to come together and swimming fast. We are coming off a number of strong performances at Princeton and we are just hoping to build on those until Patriot League Championships.”
The Lehigh women (0-2) are looking for their first dual meet victory of the season, but the Mountain Hawks’ younger swimmers have experienced some individual success. This week, freshman, Courtney Patterson earned the Patriot League Female Swimmer of the Week honor as a result of her performance at the Big Al Open. Last weekend Patterson won the 200 yard freestyle, took second in the 1650 free and finished third overall in the 200 individual medley.
“I was happy with my swims this past weekend,” Patterson said. “The whole team swam well. It was a good start for the season for everyone and I was honored to be named Patriot League Swimmer of the Week.”
The women’s team will have to swim well together to come out with its first victory of the year. There will be challenges in the way of a Lehigh win, outside of the obstacle of swimming in a rival’s home pool during rivalry week.
“We have several girls out sick and no divers at this point so we will be starting with a 32 point deficit,” Herb said. ”I am confident that our girls can make up those points, but it will make the meet very close to the end. I think we could win a majority of the events, but it will come down to the third, fourth, fifth place efforts. The team will be led by Emily DiDonato, Brooke Smalley and freshman Courtney Patterson. We will see the best out of everyone on Friday evening as they try to beat Lafayette!”
Action begins with diving at 3 p.m. from Lafayette’s Ruef Natatorium, followed by swimming at 6 p.m.
After the Lafayette meet, the next competition for the Mountain Hawks will be on November 29th, when select team members will travel to Austin, Texas for the U.S. Nationals.
Story by Josh Fitch ‘13