Women’s swimming and diving brings home championship title

Hunter O. Lyle  –Sports Editor

Sam Tapper – Sports Writer

After being predicted to finish third in the NE10 Championships, the women’s swimming and diving team blew past expectations, claiming its third title in four years and 13th title in the 17 years of NE10 competition.

Led by captain Avery Forniciari, a senior, who took home five total gold medals on the three days of competition, head coach Tim Quill said this year’s championship was one of prominence and one that will not be soon forgotten.

“[We are] ecstatic. It was probably one of the most memorable conference championships that I can remember,” said Quill. “I remember them all. We’ve been fortunate, we’ve won a lot of championships, and I remember bits and pieces of each. It spans over 17 years, but this one was really special because it’s been a demanding season.”

Throughout the championships, the women’s team sealed the victory with a score of 863-830.5 against the defending champions from Assumption College, who were the preseason favorites to win. Among the gold medalists were Forniciari for the 500 Freestyle, 100 Butterfly and 200 Butterfly, Erin Leirey, a senior, for the 200 and 400 IM and Faith Littleton, a freshman, for the 1,650 yard.

Forniciari, who has been a four-year swimmer with the program, entered this year’s NE10 Championships motivated by the previous year, when the team finished third, its lowest finish since she arrived at Southern.

“We said from day one with this program, we had a great incoming class and obviously have a lot of great returners too, that our day one goal was to win a conference championship,” said Forniciari. “We just said from the get-go what we’re going to have to do is going to be like no season before.”

As a captain, Forniciari was impressed with the work of the younger swimmers, like Littleton, who besides her gold in the 1,650 yard also claimed silver in the 1,000 Freestyle and bronze in the 500 Freestyle, and Rebekah Lockery, a sophomore who took home the bronze in the 100 Freestyle.

“My freshman year was really tough for me so I was nervous [for the younger swimmers] because there is a lot of pressure, especially if you didn’t do high school swimming. It’s very different having a team behind you. It either makes you feel really excited or really nervous,” said Forniciari. “So, the freshmen handled it super well. My biggest thing with them is that they really dominated the relays.”

On the other side of the coin, the men’s swimming and diving team placed second overall in the NE10 competition, an unchanged result from the previous year. Overall, the team was locked into second, finishing with 584.5, behind Bentley University, who amassed 815.5 points over the three days.

“The men, we were picked second [in the preseason polls,] we tried to put a plan together to be able to compete with Bentley [who] has far more depth than our program,” said Quill. “I mean, we tried to put a winning plan together, it just didn’t unfold that way. They were too strong. I think we really did a great job as a program.”

Leo LaPorte, a senior and four-year swimmer, became a four-time gold medalist in the 100 Butterfly, 200 Butterfly and the 200 and 400 Medley Relay, as well as a two-time silver medalist in the 200 and 400 Freestyle Relay.

“Basically, I just wanted to win my events and do what I had to do,” said LaPorte on his mentality coming into the NE10 Championships. “I just wanted to get all my teammates set for their events and get their head in the game.”

Looking forward, LaPorte and Forniciari are both contending for spots in the NCAA Championships. Quill described this time of year as a “wait-and-see period.” Though these athletes have posted numbers worthy of qualifying for the NCAAs right now, there are still roughly two weeks of conference championships to play out, and LaPorte and Fornaciari could be knocked out of contention.

Regardless, the athletes remain optimistic.

“I’m just going to do what I have to do in here, and just listen to whatever [Quill] has to do,” said LaPorte. “I trust him. He’s gotten me there two years already, so I’m just going to do whatever I have to do to get there, and if I’m already set to go, then that’s awesome.”

Photo Credit: Southernctowls.com

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