WASHINGTON - The Gallaudet University men's and women's swimming and diving teams enter the 2014-15 season with new expectations and return a mix of veterans and newcomers ready to lead the Bison. Head coach Larry Curran is entering his third year at the helm with one men's conference championship title and the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Women's Swimming and Diving Coach of the Year honor under his belt.
"Last season was quite a strong season," said Curran. "The men won a championship and the women broke many 20-year-old records. This year the women are a fairly strong team with real championship hopes. The men's team is small, only half the size the NCAA allows. We are working on individual successes and trying to get an overall team improvement."
Here is a breakdown of the men's and women's swimming and diving teams:
The men's team is feeling a loss with the graduation of DJ Everton-Lovell but hopes to fill those shoes with help from senior captain Abdiel Davila-Cruz (Orlando, Fla.). Davila-Cruz earned five All-NEAC third team honors last season.
"Abdiel is versatile, he swims all strokes, " said coach Curran. "He's a good leader and trains hard. We are looking for a lot of success out of him."
On the men's side several key returners should help lead the Bison along with Davila-Cruz including senior Bernardo Toledo (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico), junior Tony Abshire (Sacramento, Calif.), who is a distance freestyle swimmer, along with junior diver Neal Matthews (Kent Island, Md.) and sophomore Xuan Lin (Fulton, Ill.). Matthews earned All-NEAC second team honors in 1-meter diving last season while Toledo was a member of the Bison 200-yard freestyle relay team that placed second at the 2014 NEAC championships.
New to the team is Matthijis Wubbolts (Groningen, Netherlands) who represented the Netherlands in the 2009 Deaflympics. Wubbolts had retired from swimming but has been training hard since joining the team to become competitive.
Gallaudet's women's team finished third at the NEAC championships last year and are deep and strong enough to make a run at the program's second championship, who last won it all in 2011. Leading the way are the Polivanchuk sisters; Alexandra Polivanchuk and Anna Polivanchuk (Orebro, Sweden). The sisters combined to earn 12 All-NEAC first team honors last year at the conference championships. The Polivanchuks were members of the four relay teams that set new NEAC championship records and school records; 200-yard freestyle relay (1:47.87), 400-yard freestyle relay (3:54.35), 200-yard medley relay (1:58.12) and 400-yard medley relay (4:24.46).
"We are looking for consistent contributions from Alex in her fourth year," said Curran. "Anna is hungry to win races and after the NEAC championship, she has opportunities for more postseason competition."
Also back for the women's team are sophomore Molly Verseput (Upland, Calif.), sophomore Thyra Wood (Great Falls, Mont.) and fifth-year senior Katie Giles (Gaithersburg, Md.), who were part of last year's team that broke two of the oldest school records in Gallaudet history. Team captain Brianna Stroud-Williams (Tucker, Ga.) is also a distance specialist who is recovering from shoulder surgery but is expected to make a full comeback for the season. Junior Paige Foreman (Alburquerque, N.M.) has returned as well after keeping up in the off-season with open water ocean long-distance swimming.
Anticipating a busy and challenging schedule the Bison have plenty of newcomers to both the men's and women's teams that are looking forward to the season.
"This is a Division III program and everything is about attitude. If they've got the right attitude, want to learn and work hard, they're welcome on the team and they will be scoring points by the end of this year," said Curran.
The men's and women's swimming and diving teams will open the 2014-15 season with three consecutive home meets against Ferrum College (Oct. 4), Frostburg State University (Oct. 18) and will complete the home stretch against NEAC foe Cazenovia College (Oct. 31).
Heading to Roanoke, Va., the Bison will have to face Greensboro College, in addition the women's team will go up against Hollins and Guilford on Nov. 1. After the tri-meet the Bison women's team will remain on the road and face conference member Cedar Crest College on Nov. 8. Following the away trip, GU will return home on Nov. 14 to face Marymont (Va.) University. After the home meet GU will return to the road to face Goucher College on Nov. 15.
Back at the Field House the Bison will take on non-conference opponent Bethany College on Nov. 22. This is the final home meet for the men's team for the 2014-15 season. The Bison then hit the road, the first of which will be a meet on Dec. 6 at SUNY Cobleskill as the Bison face Wells College, Alfred State and host Cobleskill.
GU begins the New Year at York (Pa.) College against Penn St.-Altoona and the host Spartans on Jan. 16. Gallaudet's women's team returns home to host Notre Dame of Maryland University on Jan. 21 before closing out the regular-season schedule on Jan. 24 at College of St. Elizabeth. The Bison will then prepare for the conference championships on Feb. 13-15 in Cobleskill, N.Y.