BALTIMORE – UMBC opens the 2019-2020 swimming and diving campaigns on Friday, Oct. 11 when they host the United States Naval Academy in a dual meet. The proceedings get underway at the UMBC Aquatic Complex at 4:00 p.m.
Both teams will attempt to defend their America East titles from February 13-16, 2020 at WPI in Worcester, Mass.
Captains Named: The team selected seven captains to represent them for the 2019-20 campaign. On the women's side, the squad selected seniors Shea Braden (Chaska, Minn.), Brittany Coughlin (Stony Brook, N.Y.) and Julia Horan (Bayport, N.Y), while head coach Chad Cradock's men's side tabbed juniors Jack Carlisle (Cape Town, South Africa) and Jeremy Gates (Escondido, Calif.) and seniors Ilia Rattsev (Moscow, Russia) and Jethro Ssengonzi (Cary, N.C.).
"Our captains are voted upon by the team, so they are representative of them and I am always happy that we do it in that way," said Cradock. "They have grabbed every opportunity to lead this team. I'm really impressed with them being proactive.
"They came up with a great theme for the year, #BeTheChange, so we are working to find ways to 'be the change' and help us be successful."
Last Time Out: The women captured 9 of 16 individual events and both relays (one mixed) in a non-scored meet versus Bucknell on Saturday, Oct. 5. Senior Abby Biddulph (Egg Harbor City, N.J.) won both the 1- and 3-meter diving events.
On the men's side, the Retrievers had a strong meet, winning 15 of 16 individual events, both relays (one mixed) and one of two diving events versus the Bison.
Last Year's Meet: Last season, Navy took the women's meet, 185-107, while the Mids captured the men's side, 198-100.
Junior Natalija Marin (Belgrade, Serbia) recorded the women's top finish, placing second in the 200 fly with a time of 2:04.49.
Rattsev produced a dominating meet for UMBC, capturing the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events. Sophomore Kai Wisner (Syracuse, N.Y.) debuted by placing second in the 1000 and third in the 500 freestyle events.
The school record-holder in both backstroke events, senior Emily Vance (Finksburg,Md./Westminster) produced a solid junior campaign after a spectacular sophomore campaign. Horan is a strong competitor and freshmen Mikalya Ludwick (Gulf Breeze, Fla.) and Isabelle Bauer (Moseley, Va.) give the Retrievers a strong foursome in this event.
Marin is the America East's two-time defending champion in the 100 butterfly and has taken gold and silver in the 200 in her first two seasons. Senior Sotiria Neofytou (Limassol, Cyprus) placed second in the 100 and the duo are excellent training partners. A strong group of freshmen, led by Kylie Kelly should give UMBC a deep group in the butterfly.
Sophomore Tonia Papapertrou (Nicosia, Cyprus) earned bronzes in both the 50 and 100 freestyle events at the America East Championships in her debut last winter. She competed in the World University Games this summer and the coaching staff is expecting an outstanding sophomore year for the native of Cyprus. Senior Haylee Committe (Ellicott City, Md./Howard) has racked up numerous medals in the 50 and 100 during her tenure, while Marin provides solid support in the 200 freestyle.
Junior Vanessa Esposito (Montreal, Quebec) will be the Retrievers' go-to competitor in the distance freestyle events.
Committe is the Retrievers' most experienced competitor in the breaststroke events, but Cradock expects sophomores Lily McCoy (Mt. Airy, Md./Linganore) and Courtney Spellman (Monrovia, Md./Urbana) and freshman Jenna Gwinn (Baltimore, Md./Mount de Sales) to bolster UMBC's fortunes.
Senior Devin Gromen (Crofton, Md./Arundel) has recovered from injuries and is working hard to move back up to the top of the conference ranks. Biddulph has been a consistent scorer in dual and championship meet competition and give the Retrievers a solid duo on the boards. Freshmen Alexis Bruington and Morgan Donohoe give the Retrievers their deepest diving contingent in several years.
"If we stick with our theme – be the change, it can help us improve," said Cradock. "Every day they need to figure out how to get better. If they do that they can be a very competitive team."
Last season, Rattsev became the first UMBC swimmer to break the 20-second mark in the 50 freestyle. He earned five individual golds in post-season competition last year, capturing the 100 and 200 events at both the America East and ECAC Championships and taking the 50 free at the former.
Sophomore Tiago Asakawa (Sumaré, Brazil) debuted by earning silver in the 50 and bronze in the 100 at the league championships and, according to Cradock, is training very well this fall. Freshmen Gabe Laracuante (Gaithersburg, Md./Good Counsel) and Niklas Weigelt (Clayton, Calif.) can also make an impact in these events.
Versatile junior Kai Wisner (Syracuse, N.Y.) excels at both the middle and distance events. The 2018 America East Rookie of the Year captured the 1650 freestyle at the 2019 championships. Utah transfer Samuel Jyawook (Franklin, Tenn.) should give the Retrievers a strong duo in these events.
Senior Garrett Wlochowski (Manchester, Conn.) leads a solid group in the backstroke. He has captured four silver medals in the 100 and 200 events in the last two league championships. Sophomore Luka Zuric (Setauket, N.Y.) finished just behind Wlochowski in both events and shared Rookie of the Year honors with teammate Matt Bennici (Walkersville, Md./Walkersville). Sophomore Satori Dobbie (Christchurch, New Zealand) gives UMBC good depth in the backstroke events.
Senior Luis Galvan (Torreon, Mexico) has dominated the breaststroke event at the last two America East championships, winning three golds and a silver. Cradock is optimistic that sophomore Kai Vilbig (Germantown, Md./Seneca Valley) can make solid improvements from his freshman campaign.
In perhaps the team's strongest and deepest event, five returners and several freshmen could bolster the team's fortunes. Carlisle, an America East champion in both the 100 and 200 fly, leads the group. Gates and sophomores Bennici, Dobbie, Jimmy Dwyer (New City, N.Y.), and Ryan Bugianesi (Bridgewater, N.J.) all excel in this event, which has gone quickly from weakness to strength for the Retriever program.
Senior Ben Parker (Lawrenceville, Ga.) qualified for zones in 2019, after earning a gold in the 3-meter board at the 2018 America East Championships. Freshman and local product Will Henrickson (Ellicott City, Md./River Hill) is an excellent all-around athlete who will help the Retrievers in the well.
"The men give it their best - we look really strong and there are not too many holes in the lineup," said Craodck. "We are really competitive with each other in a positive way in practice."
And, now, The Last Words
"The group is training really well and the coaching staff excited for a great year," said Cradock. "The team is very caring and really focused and driven in their academics and in the pool. I feel we can have great success."