ATHENS, Ohio- The Ohio University men’s and women’s swimming team has a promising outlook for the 2003-2004 season. With a great mix of upperclassmen and youth, both teams will be looking to make a splash in the Mid-American Conference.
"I am very excited for both of the teams,” said coach Greg Werner, entering his ninth year in Athens. “I really think we will be much improved and balanced in every area.”
The women finished last year at 10-2, 7-1 in the MAC and finished second in the MAC championships to Miami. The women did lose a few key people but return four first team All-MAC performers in seniors Shannon Kelly, Courtney Gould, Heather Rennebohm and Samantha Pfaller.
“We have a very strong nucleus returning and with their leadership and the addition of some new kids we will be very strong,” said coach Werner. “We have a lot of experience that will help us tremendously this year”
The women are solid all around but there is no question that the strongest part of the team is in the backstroke. With Kelly and Pfaller along with senior Kristen Baldinger and junior Melissa Dunn, Ohio is looking to pick up where they left of last season in the event as all four posted solid scores in the MAC championship. Joining them are junior transfer Benevieve Boucher and freshman Morgan Staley.
“We are very deep in the backstroke,” said coach Werner. “We have a lot of potential in the returnees as well as the new kids.
The women divers showed marked improvement last season and with the return of Jessica Orlov and Sarah Smith along with freshman Carrie Martin, the weakest area just a few seasons ago will again steadily improve.
“Jessica scored points for us in last years MAC championship and Sarah brings us some experience to the divers,” said coach Werner. “Carrie will also be a great asset to the divers with her skills.”
The weakest position for the women will be the breaststroke, as they return no point scorers from last years MAC championships. Ohio will look to an improving junior Irena Stavreska and freshman Jesse Rhoades who had the fastest time among the breaststrokers in the preseason.
The men will look to rebound from a 2-6 finish a year ago, including 1-4 mark in the MAC. They finished fifth in the MAC championships last season.
“I think we have a lot of talent on the men’s side but one thing we will lack early on is experience,” said coach Werner. “With the addition of the newcomers we will be inexperienced in certain areas.”
The men will again look for their divers to lead them as Two-Time MAC Diver-of-the-Year Robert Krichbaum returns. He captured eight regular season titles a year ago on his way to qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
“Diving has been the strong part of our team and will continue to be,” said coach Werner. “We have so much depth there.”
Senior Adam Thome and junior Richard Wade were also finalist in the MAC championships.
Senior Brian Teske will lead the team in the breaststroke and freshman Hart Williams will also contend giving Ohio two good scoring options.
At freestyle senior Jonathan Palmer will give Ohio a legitimate scorer in every meet. He finished third in the 500 free last season in the MAC championships. Behind him though are a mix of freshman and two junior transfers who will try and add depth.
“Our greatest weakness on the men’s side will be the experience factor,” said coach Werner. “I am very excited about moving up since we will be much improved especially as the season progresses.”
The women were picked to finish second in the preseason coach’s poll, while the men were selected to finish fifth.
“I know the guys don’t like that poll at all,” said coach Werner. “I think they want to prove that wrong and they have worked hard all summer to get better.”
The women will open up their season tomorrow against Eastern Michigan at 5 p.m. in the Ohio University Aquatic Center. They will then host Toledo on Saturday November 1 at 4 p.m.
Then men will get under way hosting Eastern Michigan on Saturday November 1 at 1 p.m.