Men's Swimming & Diving Hungry For MAAC Crown

Feb. 16, 2004

2004 Men's Swimming & Diving MAAC Championship Preview

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Swimming and Diving Championships return to Loyola College this Thursday-Saturday, March 19-21 at the Fitness and Aquatic Center. The Greyhounds will be in hunt for two MAAC titles as they host for the fourth consecutive year.

A quick start to the 2003-04 campaign had both the men and women sporting 4-0 records after wins over Canisius, Georgetown, Providence and Fairfield. A strong showing at Loyola's Thomas Murphy Invitational and another good performance at the Colgate Invitational had both squads feeling good at the holiday break.

Back to the pool this semester, Loyola knows it will be challenged in its quest for MAAC supremacy. Among the formidable foes is Marist, perennial conference power. The Greyhounds hope to flex their muscles this time as they look to earn their first title sweep since the 1995 MAAC Championships.

On the men's side, perennial conference champions, Marist College look for their ninth title in as many years. Since joining the conference in 1995 they have dominated the competition and have captured the first place trophy every year. A strong Rider team will look to dethrone them, but the Marist's depth may be too much to overcome. The Greyhounds, last year's third place team and a fast improving Fairfield, Niagara and Iona will be in the mix while Saint Peter's attempts to lift itself from a last place finish in 2003. Canisius' men, newly reinstated after a six-year hiatus, hope to regain some of the momentum they had before they were abruptly dropped in 1997. With at least a couple of exceptional athletes at each program, the meet promises to be an exciting three-day event.

Here is a look at the men's competition - team-by-team.

A solid returning group complemented by a strong freshmen class should help the Loyola Greyhounds in their pursuit of a MAAC Championship. Team captain and school record holder Chris Berger leads the way for the 'Hounds. At the 2003 championships, Berger collected three medals; two silvers and a bronze, in the distance freestyle events. Marko Turcinov set a conference record in the 100 butterfly on his way to a three-medal meet. Turcinov also picked up the win in the longer butterfly event as well as a bronze medal in the 50 freestyle. Backstroker/freestyler Kyle Klimas and breaststroker James Harris each climbed the podium once last year while individual medley swimmer Sam Brownell made the trip twice. Each will need to improve his standings this year if the 'Hounds hope to reign as conference champions. The strength of Loyola's team is its depth and many of its athletes who found themselves in the consolation final last year hope to make it to the top eight this year. In addition to this veteran crew, a talented freshman class is led by freestyler Ryan Reeser, sprinter Drew Crampton, breaststroker Carl Sylvester and the versatile Tim Hoover. If depth is the answer, the 'Hounds should have a strong showing again this year.

A young and inexperienced Canisius squad will make its first appearance at the MAAC Championships in six years. Dropped after the 1997 championships, the Golden Griffins are in the rebuilding stage. Michael Brunson, Jason Zilbauer, Mike Harris and Jon Sinski lead a dedicated crew who will look to gather points for their program and lead the way into the future as the Griffs add depth and talent to their roster in the coming years.

School record holder Frank Vitulli leads the way for the Stags of Fairfield. Vitulli, a distance freestyle specialist, stood on the awards stand three times last year, capturing bronze medals in 1000 and 1650 freestyle events. Stag fans will look for a repeat performance this year. In the 400 individual medley Sean Killelea captured a top eight spot, as did 200 breaststroker Raul Delgadillo. The Stags, who barely got by Niagara last year, had one of their best team performances of all time. Their fourth place finish led a tight battle with the Purple Eagles of Niagara and Iona Gaels

Iona College will count heavily on sprinter Kamil Kulczycki, a three-time finalist in 2003. Kulczycki scored in the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly before earning a silver medal in the 100 freestyle on the final day of the meet. Freestyler Brent Regan will also play a big role for the Gaels. A bronze medallist in last year's 200 freestyle, he just missed the finals in both the 100 and 500 freestyle events. Backstroker Kel Trebon and freestyler Jim Eckert both made their way into the top eight at last year's meet and will be depended on for more of the same this year. With a freshman roster of 14, Iona may surprise the field. Breaststroker Dave Cofrancesco, backstroker Drew Finneran and Tim Morse in the butterfly and distance freestyle events head up this large class.

The odds on favorite for another trip to the top of the podium is Marist College. Despite the graduation of sprinter Ricky Kapusta, a double gold medallist and freestyler/backstroker Joe Murin, the Red Foxes remain strong. A talented group of returnees includes Matt Castillo, champion in the 200 individual medley, the 400 individual medley and runner up in the 200 butterfly; Trevor Charles, who earned three silver medals in the 200 individual medley and the 100 and 200 backstrokes and Jeff Paul, who picked up a second, third and fourth place finish in his events, the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke. Seniors Bob Dunn (breaststroke, IM) and Ray Ferranti (butterfly, freestyle) each took three trips to the awards stand last year and again will add significantly to the point total; as will sophomore Joe Pilewski, who scored top eight points in the 100 backstroke, the 200 butterfly and the 400 individual medley in his first MAAC championships.

Niagara swimmers Brian Griffin, Nate Katz and Kevin Klein will look to avenge their loss to the Stags at last year's meet. In a battle that went down to the final event, the Purple Eagles came up on the short end of the 355 to 353 fight for fourth place. With Rider's Cliff Young gone, Griffin will look to improve on his silver medal finishes in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Sprinter Nate Katz climbed the podium twice in the 50 and 100 freestyles, as did Klein in the backstrokes. They will be counted on to do the same this year. With a freshmen contingent that represents nearly half their squad, the Purple Eagles hope the infusion of new talent will help them improve upon their 2003 standings

The Broncs of Rider University appear to be the squad with the best chance of upsetting Marist. Gone is double gold medallist Cliff Young in the breaststrokes who along with Brad Lacey, Sam Engle and Dan Burgess collected eight individual gold medals, the most for any team at the 2003 championships. Lacey led the way with three wins in the distance freestyle events, Engle added two with near conference record performances in the backstrokes and Burgess picked up the gold in the 200 freestyle. The versatile Bobby Desandre submitted three medal-winning performances, earning a third place finish in the 200 butterfly and silver medals in both the 100 butterfly and the 500 freestyle. This year he has broadened his range, recording some of the fastest times in the conference in the 200 and 400 individual medley's and the 100 and 200 breaststrokes in addition to his traditional events

The Peacocks of Saint Peter's College will try to gain some attention on the shoulders of some strong swimmers. Sophomore Alex Crampton had a sensational inaugural meet in 2003, reaching the finals in both butterfly events and grabbing the top consolation spot in the 100 backstroke. Fellow sophomore Rob Longo also found his way into the points column with Top-16 finishes in his three events. A bright spot for the Peacocks could be the return of the multi-talented Goran Marjanovic. During his first two years of collegiate swimming, the five-event school record holder appeared in six different individual championship finals. Marjanovic returns for a third year of competition after spending last year studying abroad. If he has regained his record setting form it could mean big points for the Peacocks.

Diving should play an important role in the outcome of this year's championships. With the top four divers in both 1- and 3-meter events gone due to graduation, the boards are wide open. Look for Anthony Manza of Marist, Rob Penwell and Peter Loverme of Fairfield, Jared Carlisi of Iona and Dan Casey of Loyola to take advantage of the senior exodus.

Competition is scheduled to begin Thursday, Feb 19 with the qualifying heats at 10 am and the finals at 6:30 pm. The meet concludes with the crowning of the 2004 MAAC Champions at the evening's finals on Saturday, Feb 21. As in past years, a packed spectator's gallery is expected for what is sure to be an exciting meet. A proven venue, the Loyola College Pool, has been the site of a number of nationally ranked performances over the last two years. With a great crowd, enthusiastic athletes and the conference title on the line, the meet promises to be a fast one.

Tickets for the 2004 MAAC Championships are available at the gate on the day of each event. Prices are $4 for adult all-day pass and $1 for students and children.