It is family weekend for the UNH Swimming and Diving team, as many of the athletes’ parents will be making the trip to see them kickoff their 2019 campaign against UVM.
With seven incoming first-year swimmers and 15 returning athletes, the team has a balance of youth and experience that could win them their eighth America East championship.
Head coach Josh Willman likes his depth and he knows how much his team wants to get in the pool against an opponent.
“All in all, we’re pretty healthy and dying to race in actual competition,” Willman said.
He added that “They have a lot of energy and they bring this newness and they’re excited to start the year.”
With a plethora of young athletes, it is normal to wonder how the nerves are going to affect them, and I asked coach Willman what he says to them to keep their nerves at bay.
“Focus on the training that we’ve been doing, and we’ve been doing time trial runs and they’re really on.” He continued, “when you are putting up good times at the end of a workout that is an encouraging sign, so they just need to focus on the training and draw confidence from that.”
The team will open their season in Durham against America East rival UVM on Sunday, Oct. 20. They also have another home meet against Northeastern before traveling to Boston University’s Aquatic Center to compete in the “Terrier Invitational”.
That could be a huge meet for the Wildcats as they get to compete against top-tier talent before they start America East play. The Wildcats end the year at home in Swasey Pool against longtime rival UMaine, and this could be a gigantic matchup for the ‘Cats as it is their last chance to prove what they can do before the America East Championships, which will be held in Worcester, Mass. at the Sports and Recreation Center.
Divers Anna Burns and Corinne Carbone, and freestyler Allison Stefanelli are the lone seniors on the squad, and they are preparing for their final year. They hope to continue to be the leaders of this team.
Over her UNH career, Carbone has become a nine-time America East champion. She has also been an eleven-time All-America East player, but she started her accolades off with the America-East Rookie of the Year in 2017. Carbone has a National medal around her neck, and she prepares to dominate again this year with fellow senior Allison Stefanelli.
Stefanelli looks to get another America East title and qualify for nationals this year. Stefanelli is out for the semester, so for the period of time that she is out, the younger divers will have to pick up her slack. Meanwhile, Burns is looking to finish off her career at UNH strong and compete for an America East title. The team is dealing with injuries, so Willman is looking to the veterans for some stability.
“We are looking for Anna Burns to step up because we have a few hurt divers to start the year, but she is somebody we can rely on,” Willman said.
Someone to keep an eye on this year is rising star, sophomore freestyler Anna Metzler. As a first-year swimmer, she placed third in the National Invitational Championships, set multiple UNH first-year records in the 400 individual medley, 500 freestyle and the 200 back stroke. She is a force to be reckoned with in all three events, as she placed first in the 500 freestyle, 200 back stroke and finished second in the 400 individual medley in the America East.
Willman stated that “Anna had a really good summer, she finaled in a number of events in German Nationals…she’s ready to go”. The America East Rookie of the Year should have another outstanding year for the Wildcats and this team should be fun to watch this year.