Swimming & Diving Opens the Season with Potomac Relays

Swimming & Diving Opens the Season with Potomac Relays

It's a study in contrasts for the men's and women's swimming and diving teams at American University for 2014-15.

The women's team returns all but one student-athlete who scored points for the Eagles at last spring's Patriot League Championships. The men's team will be trying to find replacements for most of its previous scorers at the league meet.

The new season opens Friday when AU hosts the Potomac Relay Invitational at the Frailey Pool. First event is scheduled for 3 p.m.



According to Eagles head coach Mark Davin, the success for the Eagles on a yearly basis comes down to a simple formula.

"We take people who we think are going to be good and see where they'll go with training," said Davin, who begins his 19th season as head coach at AU. "We have some people with good speed and we have some depth. How they work will depend on getting those big drops in times that we look for over the course of the season."

Davin has an eight-man senior class that will provide leadership on the men's side. His strength also comes in some of the stroke events, where the Eagles return some point-scorers from a year ago.

Senior Dylan Hall and sophomore Kilian Korth are expected to hold down spots in the freestyle events along with freshman Tomas Kloosterman. Freshmen Ben Mitchell, Owen Dougherty and Pat Hooks will be counted on in the freestyle spots and to learn from the seniors.

"We're definitely looking for our freshmen to help right away," said Davin. "It helps having some senior leadership, as our men and women seniors are a good group. We've got leadership all over the place."

Senior Harrison Volaski will anchor the backstrokers, as he posted times on AU's top-10 lists at both 100 (6th) and 200 yards (7th) last year. Senior Charlie Taffet brings the same expertise and experience in the breaststroke events, ranking seventh and ninth all-time in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.

Junior Michael Kell and Volaski are expected to top the group in the butterfly.

Senior Kegan Gerard will provide a veteran presence in the diving events for the AU men.

Other seniors who will provide leadership on the men's side are Kevin Bond (breaststroke), Ross Honig (freestyle and backstroke) and Ryan Saunders (distance free and breaststroke).



While the men have eight seniors on the squad, the AU women's team will have two. One of those returnees, though, is diver Melissa Parker, who was eighth at 1 meter and ninth at 3 meters at last year's PL Championships.

"Our big gun is Melissa," said Davin. "She has finished as high as second in the conference (on 1 meter in 2013) and won the ECAC title on 3 meters (as a freshman in 2012). Melissa is an extremely focused diver and is as bright and sharp as you could have in that spot."

The Eagles' coach also thinks an important factor for this year's team is to have some progress over the course of the year.

"Just like on the men's side, we have some people with a lot of energy," said Davin. "We'll all want to be better as a team and as individuals as the season goes on.

"Both the men and women have a shot to be substantially better than last year."

The Eagles have 17 underclassmen among the 24 women on the roster for the new year. Freshman Shannon Exley is promising among the freestylers. Davin also has some depth in the free, noting that 10 women have posted times under 2 minutes in the 200-yard free.

Talent and depth abound in the women's backstroke for the Eagles. Sophomore Caylee Watson and junior Paris Wood posted top-10 marks at both distances last year, with sophomore Julianna Cavano among the top returnees in the 100 back.

Junior Alexandra Follman has top-10 marks in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, while Watson ranks fifth all-time in the 100 butterfly and should lead the group there.

Sophomore Kaitie Kudlac cracked the top-10 list in the 400 individual medley as a freshman, entering the new year in seventh on the Eagles' all-time list.

Kerri Knippenberg, who competes in freestyle and backstroke, is the other senior on the women's side.