Posted: 02/15/2012 | Last updated: February 15, 2012 at 10:37 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh swimming and diving teams will travel to Navy this weekend for the 2012 Patriot League Championships – the moment the Mountain Hawks’ men’s and women’s squads have waited for all year long. The Lehigh men enter the championships following a 7-4 dual meet season while the women were 4-7.
“The keys to the team finishing at the top are racing with confidence, believing in the incredible work they’ve done and getting to the wall faster than the person next to them,” head coach Rob Herb said. “We have been preparing for the Patriot League Championships since day one. We are training hard. We are rested and ready!”
The women will be looking for redemption this weekend as they attempt to make up for last year’s sixth-place finish (230 points) at the championships. Even though they didn’t finish near the top, the squad still has solid performances in last year’s event. Lehigh placed three swimmers, Meredith Bayer, Alyssa Siano, and Priscilla Barletta, in the B Final of the 200 fly. Bayer won the race to finish ninth overall. Brooke Smalley delivered the lone school record for the Lehigh women at last year’s championship meet, with a time of 56.80 in the 100 yard butterfly.
The women’s team didn’t close out their dual season the way they would have liked, dropping a tri-meet to No. 20 Penn State and Saint Francis (Pa.).
Freshman Alissa Leung continued to build on her strong first season in the meet against Saint Francis. She finished third overall in the 100 yard backstroke and had the top time for both teams in the 200 backstroke. Herb is highlighting Leung as one to watch this weekend. She has been the Patriot League’s Swimmer of the Week twice this season and has the highest ranking on the women’s side.
Herb and the rest of the women’s team will look for Leung and junior Emily DiDonato to continue their strong showings in the pool this weekend. While Leung has excelled in the backstroke events, DiDonato has excelled in the breaststroke events.
As for the women’s sprinters, Herb will look for them to set the tone with strong relays on the first day. Sprinters Barletta, Taylor Wise, and Paola Simon will all be looked upon to set the tone. Herb is also depending on distance swimmers Bayer, Siano, Madi Smith, and Gia Patafio to give the team a boost.
The men’s team will look to build upon last year’s fourth place finish (380 points). Two members of the team broke school records in the process: Alex Aboud broke his own record in the 400 yard individual medley and Kevin Shoemaker broke the school record in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1: 49.73.
The squad lost its last four duals after winning its first seven meets of the season. The Mountain Hawks lost their last outing to Penn State, 168-101.
However, the men’s team has displayed the focus and intensity in practices that Herb believes will bring home a top finish. Herb noted Chris Hoke, Demetri Karedis, Frank Cuzzola, Angelo DiGiacinto, and Marty Kendig as the sprinters to watch. Like the women’s sprinters Herb is depending on this group to set the tone early for the rest of the team.
Herb said Shoemaker, Aboud, Danny Bennett, Jake Greene, and Chris Toth, all distance and IM swimmers will need to break into the top eight to give the team a boost.
“I feel my squad is ready because they all understand the importance of the Patriot League Championships,” Herb said. “They have dedicated and pushed themselves for the last 138 days. They want to make themselves proud as well as highlight Lehigh University.”
The Patriot League Championship starts Thursday at Navy’s Lejeune Hall and runs through Saturday. Preliminaries begin at 10:30 a.m. each day with the daily finals set for a 6 p.m. start. A video stream of the Patriot League Championships can be seen live through Patriot League All-Access.
Written by Antoine Williams ‘12