Swimmers expect a title year
Sam Tapper — Sports Writer
For most collegiate sports teams, the regular season is something they spend the entire offseason working towards, but for the Owls’ men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams, the regular season is all about working towards the postseason.
Historically, the Owls’ swimming program has been built on success, having won 13 conference championships, most recently in 2018. Last season, the Owls saw some similar success, but ultimately finished second for the men and third for the women in 2019, respectively.
“Last year was a difficult season,” said head coach Tim Quill, now entering his 21st season at Southern. “We had just come off of winning the conference championship. There’s always a lot of pressure as a swimmer at [Southern] because we always have a target on our back; everybody wants to beat [Southern.] It was a roller coaster ride last year.”
The Owls opened the 2019-20 season in Fairfield, Conn. for the Fairfield Invitational, where they finished second out of three teams, edging out conference rival Pace University. This year, there is confidence that the Owls can reclaim what they believe is rightfully theirs: an NE10
Championship win. To achieve that, they are using the regular season as a tune-up to get everybody at their best form for when the NE10 championship comes around.
“We’re all working towards a common goal, team-wise,” Quill said. “I really like what I see this year; we have a good incoming class of freshmen, and I’m very happy with our returning class. I think they’re doing a very nice job of leading our program this year.”
Among the returners on the men’s side is senior Leonardo LaPorte, who was named the NE10’s swimmer of the year in 2019 after earning all-American honors and placing fifth in the NCAA Division II Championships for butterfly. Also returning for the men’s squad is junior Bryce Castellone, who won the 200 SC Meter Individual Medley at the Fairfield Invitational to open the season.
“I think the team did great,” said Castellone, one of the captains on the men’s side this year. “It’s really tough going into that first meet, coming out strong, and I think our team did a really good job doing that.”
For Castellone, this year offers new experiences in multiple facets. For starters, this is his first year at Southern without his older brother, Tyler, who previously served as captain of the team and is one of the reasons Bryce came to Southern. This is also Castellone’s first year ever being a captain.
Returning for the women is captain and senior Avery Fornaciari, who finished second in last year’s NE10 championship with a national-qualifying time. For her, she said it’s about reiterating what her coach has preached: focus on the form now and the speed later.
“At this point in the season, he tells us to not focus so much on the times, but more on our techniques,” said Fornaciari. “Focusing on staying consistent underwater, focusing on our stroke counts – it’s not until the mid-season, the end of the season, where we start to focus on time-based intervals and things like that.”
The Owls will travel to Storrs, Conn. to face off against the Division I UConn Huskies. Following that matchup, the Owls will have their first home meet of the season when they host West Chester and Shippensburg on Oct. 11-12 at the Hutchison Natatorium inside Moore Fieldhouse.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that our program year-in and year-out is contending for a conference championship,” said Quill. “When you’ve won as many titles as our team has won, I think It’d be foolish for me to say that we’re not in it to win it.”