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AU men’s swimming and diving team faces challenges in quest for titles
10/23/09

ALFRED, NY — The Alfred University men’s swimming and diving team will be challenged greatly as it seeks to continue one of the greatest runs in the program’s storied history.

The Saxons will need to overcome the loss of 10 seniors from last year’s squad, which won the team’s third straight Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association (UNYSCSA) championship and fourth straight Empire 8 Conference crown. Among them is a pair of All-Americans — Matt Baker (backstroke, freestyle) and Brian Agro (breaststroke) — who with their fellow 2009 graduates provided the Saxons with unparalleled talent, experience and depth.

“We lost more than double the points (at the UNYSCSA meet) than any of the top five teams in the state,” head coach Brian Striker said. “But we have a good freshman class, and we’ll need them to contribute right away. And we’ll need out middle-of-the-pack guys from last year step it up. I expect that will happen.”

Despite the losses from last season, AU returns a host of swimmers and divers who were more than just complimentary pieces on a team that won 27 consecutive dual meets — a school record-tying streak that ended with a non-conference loss to Genesee in February — over a three-year period.

Among the key returnees are seniors Andrew Brisson (Greenwich, CT/Greenwich) and Kameron Chambliss (Alfred Station, NY/Alfred-Almond); juniors Tyler Olsen (Saratoga Springs, NY/Saratoga), Zach Mix (Mt. Morris, NY/Mt. Morris) and Matt Lobban (Pittsford, NY/Pittsford Mendon); and sophomores Warren Dolben (Rye, NH/Berwick Academy) and Andrew Moragne (Cleveland, OH/University).

In Olsen and Brisson, the Saxons possess two of the top freestylers in the state. Olsen followed up freshman campaign, in which he placed fifth in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle at the 2008 UNYSCSA championships, with a solid sophomore year, taking fifth in the 500-yard free and 100-yard free and eighth in the 200-yard free. Brisson, the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year in 2007, missed half of last season but returned strong, taking second in the 200-yard (winning and Empire 8 title) and 100-yard free (both with “B” cut times) and 10th in the 50-yard free at the state meet. Olsen and Brisson both swam on Alfred’s 800—yard and 400-yard relay teams that won state titles in 2009.

Chambliss has been one of the top divers in the Empire 8 and New York State each of his three seasons at AU, placing in the top eight in 1-meter and 3-meter competitions at each of his three UNYSCSA championships, including career-best second-place finishes in each of the two events at the 2009 championships. He is motivated to make the NCAA championships a year after missing qualifying by a mere eight points. Chambliss and fellow senior Sipol Smakpunt (Colorado Springs, CO/Sierra) (eighth in 1-meter diving in 2008; 21st in 3-meter in 2009) form a solid and experienced diving tandem for the Saxons.

Mix enjoyed a breakout season in 2009, winning an Empire 8 crown in the 200-yard butterfly after taking second in that event at the UNYSCSA championships. Mix placed seventh in 100-yard fly and 14th in the 50-yard free at the state meet and also swam the fly leg on the Saxons’ two medley relay state champs. Lobban has been a stalwart in the distance freestyle events each of his first two seasons at AU, placing sixth and 12th, respectively, in the 1,650-yard and 500-yard freestyle races at last year’s state meet. Lobban, who also scored at the state meet in the 200-yard back (16th,) and junior Ted Remington (Gainesville, NY/Letchworth), will be the Saxons’ top backstrokers this year. Remington, who was 18th in the 100 back and 22nd in the 200 back, could also swim the backstroke on Alfred’s medley relay teams. His best finish at last year’s state meet was in the 400-yard IM, where he placed 13th.

Dolben takes over for Agro has Alfred’s top breaststroker in 2009-10. He was 15th and 17th, respectively, in the 100-yard and 200-yard breast at the 2009 state meet, where he also took 14th in the 200-yard individual medley. Moragne will be counted on to provide depth and scoring in the sprint freestyle events as well as the butterfly. He had 11 top-three finishes in dual meets (three wins) last season before taking 17th in the 100-yard fly and 21st in the 100-yard free at the state meet. Junior Dan Steere (Hornell, NY/Alfred Almond), will look to improve on a fine sophomore campaign, in which he took 12th and 13th, respectively, in the 100-yard and 50-yard free at the UNYSCSA championships.

Striker expects his returning standouts — Olsen, Brisson, Mix and Chambliss — to continue winning in dual meets and eventually scoring high at championships. But he’s also counting on swimmers like Remington, Lobban, Dolben and Moragne to step up their games as well.

“They’re sophomores and juniors now. I really expect them to not be happy with seconds and thirds at dual meets, but to get wins and then finish in the top eight at championships,” Striker commented.

Other returnees for the Saxons include senior Pat Grimmer (Bath, NY/Haverling) (15th and 21st, respectively, in the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly at the state meet); sophomore Jeff Swartout (Binghamton, NY/Chenango Valley) (22nd in the 400-yard IM); sophomores Richard Guarniero (New York Mills, NY/Proctor) (backstroke), Richard Lenihan (Warwick, NY/Warwick Valley) (freestyle) and Vincent Pascarella (Bradford, PA/Bradford) (freestyle); and junior Nick Clark (Milford, NH/Milford) (freestyle).

Newcomers include senior Greg Pilgrim (Almond, NY/Alfred-Almond), who swam freestyle and butterfly his first three years at RIT before transferring to AU for his final season. Incoming freshmen are Emilio Bourne (Santa Fe, NM/Academy of Technology & Classics) (freestyle), Nathaniel Chapman (Hornell, NY/Hornell) (freestyle), Tyler Diesenberg (Avon, NY/Avon) (freestyle/backstroke), Cordero Kromer (Niagara Falls, NY/Niagara Falls) (breaststroke); Andrew Lanphere (Honeoye Falls, NY/Honeoye Falls-Lima) (freestyle), Tyler Puls (Rochester, NY/Harley School) (freestyle), and Phillip Yannella (Glenmoore, PA/Downingtown West) (diving).

“We have some new swimmers, like Pilgrim, Diesenberg and Chapman, who should have an immediate impact,” Striker said. “And we have guys like (returnees) Guarniero and Lenihan, who didn’t go to states last year, but we expect to be key performers this season.”

Striker is optimistic that the experience and talent on this year’s roster will help the team overcome the loss of 10 seniors from a year ago. He realizes his team is a work in progress but that the pieces are in place for another run at a state title.

“Our goal is to continue to be at the top of the state meet,” he said. “What we need to do is focus on improving each of our athletes before we start talking about winning.”