Swim team takes third at NE10 Championship
Matt Gad—Sports Writer
In what head coach Tim Quill called a ‘rebuilding year,’ the Owls’ men’s and women’s swimming and diving squads placed second and third, respectively, at the NE10 Conference Championships, which were hosted at Worchester State’s Divison III facility.
“Our entire team swam their butts off” Quill said. “We just did not have the depth on the men’s side and the women were a young team. They made huge gains, though, developing into full-fledged college athletes.”
The men, who capped off the three day event in second place, behind Bentley, were led by junior Leonardo LaPorte, who made nationals last season and will be competing there again next month. LaPorte set a meet record in the 100-yard butterfly and then qualified for nationals on his 200-meter fly.
“We had a lot of lows but we also had a lot of highs,” LaPorte said. “We went through a lot as a team and we grew as a family.”
The year started off for the men and women with a lot of road meets, beginning with the Fairfield Invite on Sept. 29. The men started to get on more of a roll when they faced off against UConn on Oct. 20 and finished in second place before coming home to defeat Pace, 124-107.
“We learned a lot this year and next year’s definitely going to be different. We will hopefully be a lot tougher – this year we had a lot to learn from,” LaPorte said.
The women were a smaller team this year, with seven freshmen joining the team and trying to make an impact for a program’s well-regarded as a perennial Division II swimming and diving contender.
Junior swimmer Erin Leirey said she felt that the hard work of her and the rest of the women throughout the season really paid off, even though they were not able to claim a championship banner.
“We lost a lot of really good seniors but the ladies we gained this year definitely made up for it,” she said.
Avery Fornaciari finished in third-place in the 200 yard butterfly at the final meet, Lauren Spencer was tied for fifth place in the 200 yard backstroke, Alina Tucker was fourth in the 100-yard freestyle and Leirey also took second place in the 200-yard backstroke.
“No place is going to get the team down,” Leirey said. “Everyone was still pretty happy with how the team did.” Last year, the Owls sent LaPorte and Tyler Prescott to the national meet, after putting LaPorte in a “last chance” meet to solidify his spot. Quill said he feels confident in putting Fornaciari in a similar position this year to try to push her along into NCAAs, which will begin March 13 in Indianapolis, In.
Quill said LaPorte showed “his legitimacy” by getting back to nationals.
“He is really developing as an athlete-fifth in the country last year in the 200-yard butterfly so there is an expectation level when you do something like that,” Quill said. “He lived up to his expectation level.”
Going forward for the program, despite not having both teams come home with conference titles like they have done in recent memory, the mindset of a productive team is still there.
“Both teams had a great year. The conference championship team results do not reflect that but the fact is that this team had a great, great season, probably one that I will remember for a long time just because of some of the things that they were able to accomplish,” he said. “I know nobody’s feeling bad for us because we have won a lot of conference championships but the fact is it was a great season.