2017 ACC Women’s Championships Fan Guide: UVA and Smith Eye #10

Karl Ortegon
by Karl Ortegon 41

February 13th, 2017 ACC, College, News


Virginia has been surfing on nine-straight ACC titles, and led by senior Leah Smith, the Wahoos are in search of number ten to bring their win streak into the double digits. While UVA still looks to be the favorite for the 2017 ACC Crown, the upward trends of teams like NC State, Duke, and Florida State suggest that Virginia might not be able to finish a whopping 150 points ahead of 2nd place like they did in 2016.

Along with Smith are German breaststroke ace Laura Simon and versatile talents Jennifer Marrkand and Kaitlyn Jones, who will all be in contention for ACC titles in their own respective specialties. The Virginia women host deep breaststroke and sprint freestyle groups, too, which will help them stay afloat in a tumultuous ACC.

Meanwhile, NC State is back after finishing 2nd in the conference last year. They’ve upped their worth with a strong freshman class headed by sprint key Ky-lee Perry, and look to have an edge over a Louisville team that is in its first season without Kelsi Worrell. The Duke women are really coming around after getting upgraded to full scholarship status three years ago, and in a sharp turnaround for Florida State with Neal Studd taking over the program, some middle-tier teams are poised to push further to the top.



  • 200 Medley Relay
  • Men’s 1-meter diving
  • 800 Free Relay
  • Women’s 3-meter diving


  • 500 Free
  • 200 IM
  • 50 Free
  • Women’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 Free Relay


  • 400 IM
  • 100 Fly
  • 200 Free
  • 100 Breast
  • 100 Back
  • Men’s 3-meter diving
  • 400 Medley Relay


  • 1650 Free
  • Women’s platform diving
  • 200 Back
  • 100 Free
  • 200 Breast
  • 200 Fly
  • Men’s platform diving
  • 400 Free Relay


Boston College – Grace Kunkel (senior sprinter), Abbi Kordell (senior breaststroker/IMer) – Kunkel swam on two relays at ACC‘s last year, while Kordell could score points in the 200 breast at ACC‘s.

Duke – Maddie Rusch (senior sprinter), Verity Abel (junior distance freestyler), Leah Goldman (junior butterflier/IMer) – Rusch is Duke’s best sprint freestyler, and Goldman returns as a three-event scoring threat. Adding depth is a large freshman class that’s sprint-heavy, which is perfect for scoring big points.

Florida State – Megan Brown (freshman IMer/backstroker/butterflier), Natalie Pierce (junior breaststroker), Tayla Lovemore (junior sprinter), Christina Loh (junior breaststroker) – Neal Studd has done a lot of work in his first season with FSU, and it shows. Natalie Pierce has already shattered PR’s this year and leads the conference in the 100 breast, while new addition Tayla Lovemore is a huge plus as an elite sprint butterflier/freestyler.

Georgia Tech – Florina Ilie (sophomore breaststroker), Chiara Ruiu (senior breaststroker/IM’er), Iris Wang (junior sprint freestyler) – Iris Wang continues to impress with in-season speed; she’s already a second faster this year prior to ACC‘s than she was last year at ACC‘s in the 200 free. Ruiu and Ilie make up a strong 1-2 breaststroke punch, while Ruiu’s strengths in the IM’s make her a dual threat.

Louisville – Abbie Houck (senior butterflier/freestyler), Andee Cottrell (senior breaststroker), Rachael Bradford-Feldman (sophomore IMer), Mallory Comerford (sophomore freestyler), Alina Kendzior (sophomore backstroker/IMer) – Comerford has developed into a star in her short time thus far with Louisville, and she’s the favorite to win the 200 free title. Cottrell is back in the breaststrokes, and Abbie Houck is having the season of her life. While not listed, 51-second 100 fly freshman Grace Oglesby has been quiet all season and could surprise at ACCs.

Miami – Christina Leander (senior backstroker/IMer), Wally Layland (junior diver), Angela Algee (senior freestyler/butterflyer) – Leander has certainly been strong for Miami, but Algee has already cracked the top 10 in the 100 fly and sits at #11 in the 200 fly this season. Layland leads the always formidable Miami diving crew.

North Carolina – Hellen Moffitt (senior backstroker/butterflyer), Caroline Baldwin (junior sprint freestyler), Sarah Hitchens (senior sprint freestyler) – UNC is hurting this year, and getting beat by Duke for the first time in program history didn’t help much. Nonetheless, Moffitt is a proven elite talent, and with the way Baldwin and the sprint group has been swimming this year, that 200 free relay is in no way guaranteed to UVA or NC State.

NC State – Ky-lee Perry (freshman sprint freestyler), Alexia Zevnik (senior backstroker/IMer), Hannah Moore (senior sprint freestyler/flyer/backstroker), Kayla Brumbaum (senior breaststroker), Elise Haan (sophomore backstroker) – The rich keep getting richer, and in NC State’s case, their sprinters keep getting quicker. Freshman Perry has been a huge weapon thus far, and like the men have already done, the Wolfpack women are starting to dominate other events besides the sprint free.

Notre Dame – Catherine Mulquin (senior backstroker), Alice Treuth (sophomore backstroker), Katie Smith (freshman sprinter), Abbie Dolan (freshman sprinter) – Senior Mulquin blazed to a new lifetime best in the 100 back… at a dual meet. The Fighting Irish have loads of young talent and a plethora of freshman sprint free strength, making for staying power in the future.

Pitt –  Amanda Richey (sophomore distance freestyler), Lina Rathsack (junior breaststroker/IMer), Valerie Daigneault (freshman backstroker), Kinga Cichowska (senior breaststroker/IMer) – UNLV transfer and German national Ransack has already broke three Pitt records in her first season with them, and freshman Daigneault took down the 200 back school record this winter. Richey and Cichowska return as A final scoring threats in multiple events.

Virginia –  Leah Smith (senior distance freestyler), Ellen Thomas (senior sprint freestyler), Kaitlyn Jones (senior IMer/butterflier), Laura Simon (senior breaststroker), Jenn Marrkand (junior IMer/backstroker/butterflier)  – These are just the stars, and there is a lot of underclassman talent that will make a huge contribution to points and relays at the end of the season. The one looming question surrounds sophomore standout Megan Moroney, who hasn’t swum at any meets since the Georgia Invite.

Virginia Tech – Jessica Hespeler (senior freestyler), Klaudia Nazieblo (junior butterflier/backstroker/IMer) Reka Gyorgy (freshman IMer), Fiona Donnelly (junior butterflyer/IMer) –  The H20kies have their proven scoring talent, though losing 2:07 breaststroker Weronika Paluszek is a hit that they won’t be able to combat against this season. Despite the breaststroke hole, Hungarian freshman Reka Gyorgy, a newly-branded school record holder in the 200 IM, is a huge plus to VT.


50 Freestyle – UNC’s Caroline Baldwin has been under 22 already this year with FSU’s Tayla Lovemore hot on her heels, while NC State’s Natalie Labonge and UVA’s Ellen Thomas are the fastest returners from last season’s ACCs. Additionally, Wolfpack frosh Ky-lee Perry has had a great first season in college and could swim well under the 22-second barrier. The 50 is unpredictable, and with no clear front-runners, it might be anyone’s race.

200 Freestyle – Leah Smith will get her biggest test in this race. The Virginia senior won this race as a sophomore, but was stopped last year by Louisville’s Mallory Comerford. Both women competed for Team USA at the 2016 FINA SCM World Championships, and rising star will go head-to-head with seasoned senior for perhaps the marquee individual matchup of the meet.

100 Backstroke – NC State’s Alexia Zevnik and Elise Haan are set to battle UNC’s Hellen Moffitt for the ACC crown in the 100 back. Zevnik was 2nd last year and Moffitt 3rd, while Haan is prepping for her first ACC Champs as a transfer from FGCU.

100 Breaststroke – Three national juggernauts will face off in the 100 breaststroke– UVA’s Laura Simon, FSU’s Natalie Pierce, and Louisville’s Andee Cottrell. The Cardinal downed Simon last year for the ACC title, with Pierce at a distant fifth. Simon, though, has been nearly a full second faster this year at this point than she was last year, and Pierce has been having the season of her life. All three are familiar with one another, and if they’re all on their game, all three could be pushing the envelope to venture into the 57’s.

800 Free Relay – UVA took this one last year by a half-second over NC State, and the Wahoos look like they can repeat even with cloudiness over a Moroney return thanks to having options Eryn Eddy and Morgan Hill, who were 1:45.9 and 1:46.0, respectively, in December. NC State will still be a threat, and with Comerford and a lights-out Houck, Louisville will be in striking distance as well.

200 Medley Relay – Four teams have thrown down 1:36’s this season: UVA, Louisville, FSU, and NC State. It’s a tough call, but this isn’t a prediction, rather just a guide to the meet. What can be predicted, though, is that this relay is going to have fireworks.


The Virginia women, who might miss out on some A-final presence if Megan Moroney is out for the rest of the season, are far too deep to be too concerned about a de-throning. After all, the Leah Smith-Jenn Marrkand-Kaitlyn Jones trifecta will rack up some serious points on its own. Other than sprint backstroke, there isn’t much of a depth concern in any other area of the Wahoos’ lineup, leaving the rest of the conference to play chase for another ACC Championships.

The prime candidate for second behind Virginia is the NC State Wolfpack, which has added a lot of depth and speed with their freshman class. They don’t look to be quite strong enough to take over Virginia, but Louisville and UNC do not have enough in the tank to stop NC State. Braden Holloway’s women will be led by do-everything senior Alexia Zevnik and distance stalwart Hannah Moore, and their relays will be in contention for conference titles across the board, perhaps with the exception of the 400 medley.

UNC and Louisville came down to a close finish last year, with the Tar Heels eking it out for third place with 1080 points over Louisville’s 1059.5. It should be close again this year, but UNC will definitely be on notice. While Louisville graduated Worrell and relay player Andrea Kneppers, the Heels said goodbye to key sprinters Lauren Earp and Allyn Hardesty, along with distance-oriented scorer Emma Nunn. With the strength of the Cardinal freshman class, they look poised to overtake UNC for third this year.

Duke continues to improve since they were given full scholarship status three years ago, and Florida State looks like a completely different team with Neal Studd at the helm. The Blue Devils could be right on track for a fifth place finish this year, while the Seminoles will surely move up from their 9th place finish last year. Both teams might leapfrog Virginia Tech, while a young but sprint-heavy Notre Dame team will try to try to elbow its way into the mix in the middle tier.

  1. Virginia
  2. NC State
  3. Louisville
  4. UNC
  5. Duke
  6. Florida State
  7. Virginia Tech
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Pitt
  10. Miami (Florida)
  11. Georgia Tech
  12. Boston College
  13. Clemson


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3 years ago

NCSU’s Hannah Moore is a junior, not a senior.

Eddie Rowe
Reply to  NCSUAlum
3 years ago

And sooooo not a sprinter.

Easy E
Reply to  Eddie Rowe
3 years ago

Part of that Gary Taylor “Long Sprint” group

3 years ago

Accurate article but I think NC state pulls it off. I think the freestyle for UVA is overstated. The 50/100 are very very deep events and I don’t think they rack up as much as years past. Add their weakness in backstroke, just don’t see it happening, but that’s why they swim the meet

Reply to  Porkchop2244
3 years ago

You could be correct. It appears UVA is losing some mojo. NCSTATE, FSU and Duke on the rise. Louisville always tough. UNC trending down. This year a two horse race, but in in next year or two I really see this conference getting tough.

Reply to  Dawgpaddle
3 years ago

I agree with your comment other than FSU… They are on the rise, but they will not be a factor in the championships. They won’t finish higher than Duke, Norte Dame, Virginia Tech, UNC, Louisville… that leaves them at #8. I see them possibly beating VT for #7 spot, but not much higher than that.

Reply to  Dawgpaddle
3 years ago

Duke has a swimming team?

Reply to  Marge
3 years ago

Yes the same swimming Duke which beat UNC (University of Near Crisis). Last word on women’s ACC meet. The NC Statement crew with enjoy watching the Wahoos Boohoo at the end of the Championship.

Reply to  Dawgpaddle
3 years ago

University of Needsnew Coaching

Joel Lin
Reply to  Disappointment
3 years ago

This is getting testy.

Lots of bulletin board material for the Hoos. I think they get it done.

Duke has come a long way. It’s not the program you tease anymore by a long shot. I’m a little disappointed nobody has teased back to the UNC haters with the everlong dig: The University of New Jersey at Durham. That’s some old school shade. You’re welcome.

Joel Lin
3 years ago

I’m thinking it is very odd to schedule a conference meet in a Monday – Thursday format. This maximizes time away from classes for all the student athletes. Am I alone thinking this is both odd timing & specious to the best interests of the student athletes?

Reply to  Joel Lin
3 years ago

it is due to HB2(north carolina) 🙁

Joel Lin
Reply to  stupidgovn
3 years ago

Thank you all for the clarity. Lord what a dumb pickle NC politicians put their state into. The ACC football & basketball championship events alone are a huge number. Hopefully the state can elect some better politicians sooner than the ACC is likely to find a better commissioner than Swofford (who is a disaster).

I’ll take UVA in this meet. Too much top heavy heat from the stars individually & on relays. Should be a great meet.

swim dawg
Reply to  Joel Lin
3 years ago

The argument could easily be made, the ncaa should not get political. At the end of the day this causes their athletes to miss more school.

Reply to  Joel Lin
3 years ago

Joel, the meet was originally scheduled for Greensboro but the NCAA moved the meet because of the North Carolina “bathroom” law. I assume that there were limited options available to move on short notice.

Reply to  Showtime64
3 years ago

Who is down voting everyone for providing accurate info without an opinion?

Reply to  coachymccoachface
3 years ago

Don’t know about any others, but every time I click on a thumbs-up, it also registers a thumbs-down.

Reply to  SwimGuy
3 years ago

Hey SwimGuy – can you email me with what browser you’re on and what operating system, so that we might trouble-shoot the issue? That’s very strange indeed. Braden.com. Thanks!

Reply to  Joel Lin
3 years ago

I believe this was done due to the meet being moved out of NC (was scheduled for Greensboro I believe) – (HB2 law) – all ACC champs/tournaments moved from the state. Finding facilities on short notice led to some different scheduling.

Reply to  Joel Lin
3 years ago

ACC’s were originally scheduled Feb 15th-18th in Greensboro NC. Because of the HB2 law, ACC’s were pulled out of NC and Atlanta was the only available venue but could not be used during that weekend so ACC’s were pushed back to be swam during the week. It does stink for the athletes to have to be out of classes during the week.

Just A Thought
Reply to  Joel Lin
3 years ago

SEC’s runs from Tuesday-Saturday. I’m guessing those teams will travel Sunday and miss an entire week of school too. Most other conference meets run from Wednesday-Saturday with teams traveling Monday. The days missed from school are really not different.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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