SALISBURY, Md. - The Salisbury University swimming teams head into the 2015-16 season with high hopes, returning most of the members of a 2014-15 squad that earned numerous individual and team accolades and saw school records fall.
On the men's side, the team returns the members responsible for 28 of its 37 first-place finishes a season ago. While on the women's side, the members responsible for 36 of their 38 first-place finishes return for this season.
Head Coach Jill Stephenson has already noted the great amount of effort being put in by both teams and the improvements made.
"Some of our swimmers who contributed last season are already beyond where they were at this time last year," Stephenson said. "On both of these teams, a mix of returners who have improved and newcomers who can contribute immediately could make us a sleeper in the CAC this season."
Stephenson has nothing but high praise for her swimmers and looks to improve on last year's ending. At the end of last season at the Capital Athletic Conference championships, the men's team earned the third spot in the CAC, while the women finished fourth.
The biggest pieces coming back from the 2014-15 team that finished third in the CAC are senior Will Gough, and juniors Jake Blazer, Okan Eyigor, and Scott Schirmer. Those four made up the 400-yard freestyle relay team that finished second at the CAC championships a season ago and garnered All-CAC recognition. Other returners Stephenson will rely on heavily are junior Travis Maida and sophomores Stephen Arcidiacono, and Conor Johnston — who all played significant rolls for the Sea Gulls last year.
Stephenson also points to a group of returners consisting of seniors Colin Forbes, Jeremy Powell, Chris Ek, and sophomore Kevin Drury who have showed up for the 2015-16 preseason in great form and should improve on where they left off a season ago.
"We have a whole group of returners who will be more than solid," Stephenson said. "Then with this group of freshmen, we are going to be better than last season."
Three freshmen Stephenson pointed out were Keaton Burke, Peter Moyer, and Andrew Ward. She expects all three, along with the rest of the class, to excel at the next level and challenge some of the upperclassmen. Stephenson has especially high expectations for Moyer who has performed well in the preseason.
The women's team comes into the season with the strongest group of returners Stephenson has seen in a while. Leading the pack will be junior Victoria Radcliffe, who broke a 14-year old school record during last season's CAC Championships on her way to earning All-CAC Second Team honors in the 200-yard free.
Joining Radcliffe to bolster the women's squad are senior Nicki Schult, junior Nikky Marders, and sophomore Bizu Baldinazzo. That trio combined for 12 first-place finishes a season ago and along with Radcliffe made up the 400-yard medley relay team that nearly broke the school record at the CAC swimming championships a season ago.
Stephenson noted that the whole group that is returning has prior experience that will make for a great season for the women.
"Kathryn Adams, Maggie Deering, Claudia Guay, Layne Gable, and Nicki Schult are all swimmers we can count on to swim well in whatever event we put them in," Stephenson said. "Then our newcomers in Sami Davidson and Hannah Schlegel are ones that I think we can definitely count on as well."
Stephenson also had good words for freshmen Nicole Charkowick, who she sees progressing into a prominent role as the season goes on.
The Sea Gulls open up the season at home against Catholic University of America on Saturday, October 24. They stay at home on Halloween, October 31 to take on York College on Pennsylvania to open up CAC play, before starting a stretch of six meets on the road.
Big meets over the road stretch will include November 7, when they take on CAC member Frostburg State University. Also from November 20-21, they will compete at the Swarthmore Invitational, hosted by Swarthmore University. The road stretch ends on December 5, when the Gulls take on Widener University.
After a month-long break, Salisbury gets back in the pool on January 9, 2016 when it hosts CAC favorites, University of Mary Washington. Five days later, Salisbury returns to the Maggs Physical Activities Center as it welcomes Marymount (Va.) University to town to close out its home meets for the season.
The regular season concludes for the Gulls on January 30 when they take on St. Mary's College of Maryland.
Both teams will then return to Saint Mary's City, Maryland, for the CAC championships, hosted by St. Mary's (Maryland) from February 19-21.