The UNH swimming and diving team gears up for a long weekend of swimming as the 2017 America East Championships begin on Thursday, Feb. 9 and continue until Sunday, Feb. 12 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. After a successful season finishing 5-3 and winning their last five dual meets, the Wildcats look poised going into the tournament. The recent sucess towards the end of the season has head coach Josh Willman confident going into the weekend.

“We have been performing well in the meets leading up to the championships so we are on target to have some great swims,” Willman said.

The Wildcats finished second last year behind UMBC with a total of 824.5 points. Yet, with swimmers such as juniors Liza Baykova and Colby Harvey helping to lead the team, the ‘Cats have a shot to upend the two-time defending champion Retrievers.

Baykova has had a stellar season with big swims against the likes of Vermont and Maine, expect a strong performance out of her this weekend. Last year at the championships, Baykova set a record with her teammates in the 800-yard freestyle relay with a time of 7-minutes, 16.14-seconds. Individually, she placed first in the 100 and 200 freestyle events as well.

For Harvey, the transfer from Florida State has helped add to the team’s momentum as of late. She was not able to compete last year because of eligibility, but after a freshman year where she finished 13th at the ACC Championships, Harvey will be prepared to make her debut in America East. This season, Harvey has progressed in the 200-yard individual medley  (IM) and butterfly. Against Vermont, she swam to a first-place finish with a time of 56.96.

Although the Wildcats are proven contenders, their depth has taken a hit after late-season injuries, but with Willman at the helm, expect the team to step up over the weekend.

“Our depth will be hurt due to two injuries so we will not be at full strength unfortunately. Still, look for swimmers freshman Corinne Carbone and senior Sarah Broderick,” Willman said.

Carbone has swam hard all year and showcased the ability herself and other freshman swimmers can bring to the team. She placed first in a couple races against Central Connecticut State University, most notably the 400-yard IM with a time of 4:31.92.

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Junior Liza Baykova will look to defend her 100 and 200 freestyle first-place finishes in last year’s championships.

Broderick brings a veteran presence to the table. The 5-8 senior out of Haverhill, Massachusetts was the member of the 400-yard relay team that finished second last year during the tournament. During the 2016-17 campaign where she placed first in the 1000 freestyle against Binghamton.

As for diving, the ceiling is high for the Wildcats. Last week, Erin Cullather, a sophomore out of Highland Park, Illinois, was named America East Diver of the Week after she shined against Maine. Cullather grabbed first place in the 1-meter dive with a score of 206.10 and then the 3-meter dive with a score of 210.07. Expect her to push towards the top of the leaderboards as the 1-meter finals begin on Thursday.

The momentum is on the side of the Wildcats. With depth a noted issue, the leadership and skill will become vital and the Wildcats seemed prime to push the pace.