Trip to Puerto Rico benefits UMass

By Nick Bellofatto

The Massachusetts men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams had a very busy winter break. The athletes left UMass after finals week, headed to Puerto Rico in late December for their annual trip and ended it all in Rhode Island for an Invitational Tournament to compete with Rhode Island, La Salle and George Washington.

The trip began after the team had its last practice of the fall semester and headed home for an abridged winter recess. After a 10 day layoff and just three days after Christmas, the team practiced for four days and then flew to Puerto Rico for training and dual meet competitions.

The trip to Puerto Rico is an annual training trip that allows the team to train, compete and prepare for other upcoming events.

Both the Minutemen and Minutewomen are not short on events, and just two days after they returned from Puerto Rico, they headed to Rhode Island on Jan. 14 to take part in their second invitational tournament of the season.

At the tournament, both the Minutemen and Minutewomen won first place.

After the first day of competition, the men and women were in first place, but it was the women’s team that was in a tight race between the three other colleges competing. La Salle was only six points behind, while URI and George Washington were also right in the mix.

The Minutewomen showed a genuine team effort can really be a difference-maker in such a close tournament and all team members involved in all the competitions showed up to compete.

The Minutewomen began the second day of the competition by taking part in the 200-yard medley relay. With the talent of Jessica Starosielec, Sarah Kanellas and Amina Meho, the relay team captured a first place victory, picking up where they left off the day before.

When it came time for the divers, Minutewoman Molly Elkins took first place in the one-meter dive, helping the Minutewomen capture three first place finishes in diving events.

The Minutemen followed in the women’s footsteps by picking up a win in the 200-yard medley relay to begin the second day of competition. The team efforts in the relay meets coupled with the individual performances set the stage for an impressive day for both teams.

Joey Sbordon, a junior and Franklin, Mass. native carried over his success from the first day and placed first in the 400-yard IM, and third in the 1000-yard freestyle. It was not only upperclassmen, it was also freshman Derek Hursch who continued to impress by placing first in the 200-yard freestyle and second in the 100-yard freestyle.

The men’s diving team is also showing practice can truly make perfect, as Jason Cook and Alex Merkulov placed first and second in the one-meter dive, respectively.

Before winter break, UMass coach Bob Newcomb reflected on his team’s time off from the pool.

“We have a large gap of time between now and when we are back in our pool training and getting ready for the weekend meets. Right after the Rhode Island Invitational everybody comes back and we are back into the academic world again.”

That large gap of time Newcomb mentioned has now concluded, and both teams have hit the ground running, and by doing so were able to sweep the Rhode Island Invitational.

Over the winter break the men’s team made a big announcement, welcoming transfers Ted Millett and Colin Mulcahy, who transferred to UMass and joined the team for the second semester. Millett transferred from Ohio State, while Mulcahy transferred from Connecticut.

The two new swimmers are gifted with different talents and can add to the teams’ breaststroke competitions as well as sprint competitions. Millett is a sophomore and Mulcahy is only a freshman, giving the team not only depth for the second half of this season, but also for years to come. Both swimmers were eligible to compete immediately after completing the transfer process, and Mulcahy took full advantage of the opportunity.

Mulcahy, who has been eligible since early January participated at the Rhode Island Invitational and was part of the 200-yard medley relay team that took first place to start the second day of competition.

With only a little over a month before the Minutemen and Minutewomen take place in the Atlantic 10 tournament, it is important they continue to build on a successful winter break. Both the Minutemen and Minutewomen were back in the pool on Jan. 21 for Senior Night.

Nicholas Bellofatto can be reached at [email protected]