Courtesy: North Carolina Athletics
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The University of North Carolina swimming and diving teams head east to East Carolina University on Friday for their first dual meet of the 2018-19 season. With competition set to begin at 5 p.m., the Tar Heels are hoping to collect their first win at the Pirates’ Minges Natatorium.
“We’re very excited to compete against another institution,” UNC head swimming coach Rich DeSelm said. “We haven’t seen some of our team members compete since late July or August at Nationals in Irvine and many of them even prior to that event. It’s always very exciting to get the season started, to see what the team chemistry is. We’ve had a great fall of training I think the team has shown a lot of togetherness, spirit and unity and I’m very much hoping to see that come out in an organized and supportive way over in Greenville as they care for their teammates, support their teammates and race tough for their teammates.”
“We’re excited as well,” UNC diving coach Abel Sanchez said. “It’s going to be a good meet to just get our toes wet. I really don’t have any expectations for anyone other than good hurdles and being aggressive. We’re not even going to be competing full lists, but I’m excited for everyone. It’ll be good to get back into the swing of things.”
With 47 student-athletes returning and 14 new faces, the coaches and team members are ready to see what everyone will bring to the table.
Among the list of returning Tar Heels are five 2018 NCAA Championship qualifiers and 21 student-athletes who rank among the top-10 performers all-time at UNC. Zhada Fields, a senior from Toledo, Ohio, qualified for her first individual events in 2018 after two seasons of competing on relays at NCAA competitions and hopes to qualify for her fourth and final championships. The four other 2018 NCAA qualifiers include junior Brooke Perrotta and sophomores Emma Cole, Caroline Hauder and Maddie Smith, all of whom are looking to find their way back to the top.
Hauder, a sophomore from Charlotte, N.C., returns as a two-time Carolina record holder in the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley and she ranks sixth and eighth all-time in the 200-yard backstroke and breaststroke competitions, respectively. Senior Maria Lohman ranks third in school history in both one-meter and three-meter springboard diving and ranks seventh in the 10-meter platform and teammates Fields, Bauer and Maddie Smith each hold a top-10 time at UNC in two events.
On the men’s side, four sophomores — Valdas Abaliksta, Dimitrios Dimitriou, Alvin Jiang, and Chris Thames — each have their names listed twice in the Carolina record books and redshirt-senior Sean Burston ranks third and fourth all-time at UNC in one-meter and three-meter diving.
With so many decorated returners, Carolina’s coaching staff hopes to see great leadership on the deck, on the boards and in the water and Friday’s competition at East Carolina makes for the perfect opportunity to learn more about their student-athletes. While there are plenty of returnees who have elevated the programs, both teams are eager to watch some highly anticipated freshmen performances. Both DeSelm and Sanchez hope to see how their newcomers line up with the competition and how they compete under pressure.
“We’re trying to see a lot of swims from as many people as we can get in as many possible events over the course of the competition,” DeSelm said. “Training brings a lot of great information, but competition brings even better information about where we are in our training. It’s a bit of a reality check for athletes and coaches and the first meet always gives us a starting point to launch from to find technical and tactical things to improve — power, conditioning and all those things that we work on in practice. With good honest efforts, we will learn a lot from our swimmers and divers to make our next training blocks meaningful. That’s one of the main goals aside from certainly wanting to win two meets. We want to learn about our team.”
For live updates throughout the season, follow @uncswimdive on Twitter.