SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – With the resumption of the 2013-14 campaign now less than two weeks away, the Seton Hall men’s and women’s swimming diving teams continue to work towards the return to competition after recently spending the first week of 2014 in Ponce, Puerto Rico as part of a winter training trip to the island.
Despite a more than two-month gap in between when the Pirates last competed at the Patriot Invitational and the upcoming meet at Marist (1/25), the swimming & diving season is a consistent grind. Early morning practices and double sessions dot the calendar throughout the winter intermission and the trip to Puerto Rico provides an opportunity to further enhance such preparation while breaking the monotony of such routines.
While in Puerto Rico, the teams trained against a sun-soaked backdrop in an Olympic-size outdoor pool while also supplementing their practice with unique dry-land drills that incorporated the scenic landscape.
“The trip to Puerto Rico is something we all look forward to every year,” said head coach Ron Farina. “There is a business-like aspect to it where we are continuing to work to improve with an eye on moving closer to the goals that we set at the beginning of the year but at the same time, it is a welcome deviation from our typical routines. It’s always a little easier to get yourself excited to come out and work hard when you replace snow with sunshine and our kids took full advantage of our time down there.”
The Pirates turned in a highly successful fall, emerging as one of the deepest squads in a revamped BIG EAST Conference on both the men’s and women’s sides.
The Seton Hall men posted a 5-2 record as a team through the first half in the season with wins over Montclair State, Lafayette, Loyola (MD), Iona and a convincing defeat of conference foe Providence on the road. SHU also placed fifth at a competitive Patriot Invitational to close the fall and heading into the spring, boasts five individuals who rank among the top-eight in the league in at least one event.
Junior James Logan (Wallingford, Pa.) has established himself as one of the premier breaststrokers conference-wide, ranking first at 200-yards and just .14 off the BIG EAST-leading time at 100-yards. Senior Joey Lacus (Wethersfield, Conn.) stands eighth in both breaststroke events while junior Zach DeLillo (Sinking Spring, Pa.) has entrenched himself among the conference leaders in both the 100 and 200-yard butterfly in his first season of BIG EAST competition.
A pair of underclassmen heads the Pirates’ freestyle contingent as sophomore Tim Bosse (New Windsor, N.Y.) currently holds the sixth-fastest 200-free time in the conference and freshman Jack Poupore (Tuscon, Ariz.) came on to record a top-eight time in the 50-free.
Bosse, DeLillo and Logan also combined with freshman Keith Carlino (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) to turn in the second-fastest 200-medley relay performance to this point in the season.
The Pirates success has not been limited to the pool however as junior Ben Mitchell (Milford, Pa.) has continued to re-write the Seton Hall record book while asserting himself as a diver to watch in the region. One of the most formidable scorers on the entire team, Mitchell has already re-set his own school records in the one and three meter dives and has booked a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Zone A Championships.
Sophomore Eric Davidson (Overland Park, Kan.) has seen his scoring average skyrocket from that of his freshman season and after scoring at last year’s BIG EAST Championship, will join Mitchell in both one and three meter competition at the 2014 conference meet.
The Seton Hall women have also registered wins in five-of-seven head-to-head matchups this season, taking home victories over Montclair State, Rider, Lafayette, Iona and conference rival Providence. Kerrie Kolackovsky (Franklin Square, N.Y.) and Melody Bush (Guelph, Ontario) claimed the only two BIG EAST Female Swimmer of the Week awards that were handed out in the fall and together lead a large group of Pirates that is positioned among the conference’s elite.
Kolackovsky turned in the quickest 200-IM time in the BIG EAST at the Patriot Invite, while Bush’s effort at the meet ranks fifth. The owner of six individual school records, Kolackovsky is also atop the league in the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke events. Sophomore Megan Mallon (Glen Mills, Pa.) is poised to challenge for a breaststroke championship as well; ranking second at 100 yards and fourth in the 200-breast.
Kolackovsky also holds a top-five spot in the 400-IM, as does teammate Cece Henry (St. Louis, Mo.), and the senior stands among the top-eight in the 50-free and 100-free.
The freshman Bush is class of the conference in the 200-back and is less than one second off the league-leading pace in the 100-back. Sophomore Cora Meehan (Noblesville, Ind.) and Gabi Levine (Garwood, N.J.) each hold an additional top-eight time in backstroke events as Meehan ranks sixth in the 200-back while Levine sits eighth at 100-yards.
The top-eight in the butterfly events also feature a Seton Hall flavor as Henry’s team-leading time in the 200-fly is the sixth-fastest in the BIG EAST to this point while Kelly Markwell (Old Bridge, N.J.) and Tessa Lindner (Sun Prairie, Wisc.) stand seventh and eighth respectively in the 100-fly.
The Seton Hall women also hold the top time in both the 200 and 400-yard medley relay events and rank second in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The Hall has never won a conference championship in a relay event.
Divers Katie Riley (Newburgh, N.Y.) and Gabby Signorelli (Massapequa, N.Y.) have made a case for being the top duo in the conference with their strong performances throughout the opening months of the 2013-14 campaign, and could very well compete for the program’s first-ever conference title from the diving board. Riley has consistently delivered high-scoring performances, setting an example from the captain’s role while Signorelli’s progress in year two of her collegiate career culminated in a victory at the nine-team Patriot Invitational from the one-meter board.
Both have also earned a trip to the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships, giving the Pirates four qualifiers in the last two seasons.
While swimming and diving are largely individual sports that by nature bring attention to one student-athlete or another, the Seton Hall programs have long been defined by the effusive camaraderie that exists among the squad.
If the Pirates are to achieve their goal of making school history by bringing a BIG EAST team championship back to South Orange for the first time ever, it will take a collective effort that will call heavily upon that bond; one that Farina feels was strengthened during the trip to Ponce.
“We have a very tight-knit program here at Seton Hall but anytime you spend a week together like we did, it helps bring you closer,” he said. “I think the trip was beneficial in that we’re closer now with a clear focus on a common goal and I think that can only serve us well moving forward.”
Both teams will kick-off the second part of their schedule with a road meet at Marist on Saturday, January 25 before returning home 24 hours later to host Connecticut on Senior Day. A subsequent trip to Annapolis, Md. for the Navy Invitational will serve as the final tune-up for the 2014 BIG EAST Championship which is slated to take place over four consecutive days at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology; beginning Wednesday, February 19.
Press release courtesy of Seton Hall Swimming and Diving.