Oct. 3, 2016
Boca Raton, Fla. -
The Florida Atlantic University swimming and diving team has a new look and a renewed spirit heading into the 2016-17 season, which kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 8 against North Florida and Gardner-Webb in Jacksonville, Florida.
Over the summer, third-year head coach Lara Preacco completed her staff by bringing on assistant coach Alice McCall and diving coach Yaidel Gamboa, along with assistant coach Greg Brown, who all bring extensive expertise and energy to the program. Gamboa coached internationally before settling in Orlando where he led the diving program at YCF producing Olympic Trials qualifiers, National Champions and junior and senior national finalists. McCall, a standout four-year distance swimmer at Southern Methodist University, saw two years of success at the University of Toledo as an assistant coach prior to becoming an Owl. Utilizing his 12 years of collegiate coaching experience, Brown, in his second year with the program, has already made waves by spearheading recruiting efforts and bringing on up-and-coming talent to FAU.
"Our coaching staff, which include assistant coaches Greg Brown, Alice McCall and Yaidel Gamboa, is full of talent, motivation, determination and will to bring our team to new heights and reach goals that have yet to be achieved," said Preacco.
In the pool, the program has a strong mix of veterans and newcomers on both the men's and women's side. Through their experience in the water, seniors Bridget Belcik, Rachel Rende, Hannah Roper and Breanna Saukas will be expected to help lead the women. Roper looks to head the effort after putting up seven top-10 finishes at the Conference USA Championships last year as well as setting five lifetime bests throughout the season.
The men will look to graduate student Ryan McIntire, senior John Nolte and juniors John Brennock, Matthew Menendez, Aaron Spence and Cole Wisecarver to show them the way. Nolte and Brennock have already set the bar high as they broke the school's 100-yard IM record during the alumni meet in September with Brennock coming in on top in 52.29.
"Our freshmen have really assimilated well into FAU and the Owl family," said Preacco. "Our upperclassmen have taken them under their wing and are helping them in what can sometimes be a difficult transition. They are all pushing the limits together at practice every day and are doing a great job in the classroom as well."
McIntire, Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) Diver of the Year is back to defend his one- and three-meter championship titles. At the 2016 CCSA Championship, McIntire shattered the all-time one-meter dive record with a score of 349.00 and set the championship meet record off the three-meter board with a score of 348.35.
"I can tell you that with the divers we have, we are going to do great things," said Gamboa. "The group is working really hard every day, and hard work always pays off. The competition will be challenging, but we are preparing to compete at our highest level."
In their first year in the CCSA, the men made some waves finishing fifth out of eight teams at the CCSA Championships while setting three conference records and five school records. The women had a strong showing at Conference USA (C-USA) Championships also finishing fifth and breaking three FAU records.
Both teams will look to blaze through the season and use the high level of Division I competition to prepare for the conference championships with the ultimate goal of sending swimmers to the NCAA Championship. This season's competition will be challenging as it includes the University of Florida, Princeton, Cincinnati and Georgia Tech among others.
"We are looking forward to training hard day in and day out in order to achieve the goals we have for ourselves this year," added Preacco. "The team is continuously pushing each other to be faster and to keep improving to surpass what we accomplished last year."
The season begins on Saturday, Oct. 8 as the Owls face off against North Florida (women only) and Gardner-Webb in Jacksonville beginning at 1 p.m. The UNF Ospreys' eighth-place finish at the 2016 CCSA Swim Championships earned head coach Ian Coffey co-Coach of the Year honors. Gardner-Webb will be even more of a challenge as both the men and women finished fourth at CCSA Championships just ahead of the FAU men who took fifth.
The first home contest of the season comes when the squad hosts Campbell at the FAU Aquatic Center. That meet will take place on Friday, Oct. 14, with first swim scheduled for 3 p.m. Just over two weeks later, Princeton will come to Boca Raton, for a 10 a.m. start on Oct. 29.
The only out-of-state trip for the Owls in the regular season will be a three-day event, the Patriot Invitational at George Mason University, scheduled for Nov. 17-19 in Fairfax, Va.
The team will host their final competition before holiday break on Dec. 17, facing off against Denver and William & Mary in a tri-meet. Immediately following the break will be three out of four home competitions, which includes the Owls renewing their rivalry on Jan. 6 against Florida. Senior Day, the team's final home contest, comes Jan. 28 versus Indian River, and the last regular season meet for swimmers will be at the home of the defending conference champions, FIU, on Feb. 4 before the squad heads into the postseason.
The respective conference meets will see the men travel to Athens, Georgia for the CCSA Championship, Feb. 15-18, while the annual C-USA Tournament is scheduled for the following week, Feb. 22-25, as the women will head to Atlanta.
Admission is free at the FAU Aquatic Center for all home meets. To view the 2016-17 swimming and diving schedule in its entirety, click here.