UMass opens season against Terriers Saturday

By Nick Bellofatto

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The Massachusetts men’s and women’s swimming and diving team open their season this Saturday Oct. 16 at Boston University, as both the teams have a tall order to fill.

The Atlantic 10 preseason poll was just released for the 2010-11 season, and the men’s squad was picked to win the title while the women’s squad was picked to place third.

Head coach Russ Yarworth will look to capture the program’s fifth-consecutive A-10 title, which would be its 13th conference championship in school history and its 10th in the past 11 years. Regardless of the preseason expectations and preseason polls, the Minutemen have their sights set on BU for this Saturday.

Following a vote of the league’s head coaches, the Terriers men’s swimming and diving team has been picked to finish second at the 2010-11 America East Swimming and Diving Championship, receiving two of the five first place votes, and trailed University of Maryland-Baltimore County 15-to-14 in total votes.

The Terriers are bringing back four swimmers who won individual America East titles last season and have combined to win a total of seven individual America East titles in their careers.

BU senior Matthew Rickett is a two-time defending champion in the 100-meter butterfly and the 2009 winner of the 50-meter freestyle. They also return senior diver Tanner Knorr, who won both the 100-meter and 300-meter events on his way to being named the Outstanding Diver at the 2010 championship.

Senior tri-captain Dan Backler is ranked third all-time at UMass in the 200-meter breaststroke and fifth all-time in the 100-meter breaststroke. Last year, Backler finished third in the A-10 Championships in the 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2:05.60.

Senior tri-captain and diver Adam Duffield and junior diver Jason Cook look to pick up where they left off last season. Duffield finished second in the A-10 Championships last year, while Cook is a two-time winner of the Most Outstanding Diver award.

The Terriers women’s swimming and diving program has been unanimously selected to win the 2010-11 America East Championship following a vote of the league’s coaches.

The Terriers are looking for their third-straight championship and in the preseason have received all six possible first-place votes.

BU defended its title last year during the championship and is returning three of its top performers from the meet in 2010.

Senior Maria McIntyre won the 50-meter freestyle at the 2010 meet in just 23.17 seconds. Junior Amanda Schmitz holds the championship meet record in the 400-meter individual medley, the 200-meter butterfly and the 500-meter freestyle.

Sophomore diver Melinda Matyas won both the 100-meter and 300-meter dives in her first year as a Terrier and was also named Outstanding Diver of the meet.

The 2010-11 Minutewomen have a horde of young talented faces that are scattered through seasoned veterans.

The team will be led by senior Jessica Starosielec, junior Chelsea Downing and sophomore Amina Meho.

Starosielec ranks first in UMass history in the 100-meter breaststroke, posting an incredible record of 1:04.67 and was also a member of the school-record setting 200-medley and 400-medley relay teams.

Downing holds three school records in the 400 IM (4:30.47), 1650 free (17:10.78) and 500 free (4:58.58) while also ranking second in the 1000 free (10:21.71). She is also a member of the school record holding 800-meter free relay team.

Meho capped off a great rookie campaign and now holds the all-time UMass school record in the 50 free (23.55), while also ranking second all-time in the 100 free (51.21), fifth in the 200 free (1:52.99) and eighth in the 100 backstroke (59.26). She was also a member of the school record-holding 400-meter medley relay team (3:51.47).

Nick Bellofatto can be reached at [email protected]