Numerous end-of-season awards for Owls’ swim and dive
Sam Tapper – Sports Writer
While the postseason for the Owls’ men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors Avery Fornaciari and Leo Laporte, freshman Andrew Buehler, and coaches Tim Quill and Stephen Etienne took home major end-of-season conference awards.
Fornaciari and Laporte were named the NE10 Conference’s Swimmers of the Year on the women’s and men’s sides, while Buehler was named the NE10 diver of the year. Quill, the head men’s and women’s swim coach, was named the conference’s women’s coach of the year and Etienne, the head diving coach, was named men’s dive coach of the year.
“They all deserved it,” Quill said. “Leo was the only male athlete in the Northeast 10 to qualify for NCAAs. Andrew Buehler qualified in the top-16 — he was tenth, and Avery Fornaciari qualified in five different individual events. I think [giving them the awards] was the right decisions by the NE10.”
For Laporte, this was his second time winning the award, making him just the fourth swimmer in conference history to win the award in consecutive years. The last swimmer from Southern to do so was Ray Cswerko in 2016, who received the honor three times in four years. Laporte was also named the NE10’s Most Outstanding Performer at the championships.
“There’s definitely a lot of people that could’ve gotten it, but I’m glad I was able to get it,” Laporte said. “I’m really happy with it, especially with everything that went down [with COVID-19] and having to leave NCAAs as soon as we did. Having [the award] to end my year, it was good.”
Before they were called off, Laporte was set to make his third appearance in NCAAs and also was named an All-American this year. However, for Fornaciari, this was her first time qualifying for NCAAs over her four-year career.
“Unfortunately, a long career that I’ve been doing for probably 15-years now, did end on kind of a negative note, in a sense,” said Fornaciari. “In a positive light, it was an accomplishment that I made it there. But [the award] did bring a good amount of positivity to the end of my career, because I feel like, ‘Ok, I ended on a good note.’”
Fornaciari, a team captain, recently wrote a feature for SCSUOwls.com, in which she said: “Although, seniors may always feel something is missing, it is so important to remember everything that we did accomplish. Our sports have given us more than just competition, they have given us love, happiness, teammates and memories.”
In Quill’s eyes, he said it was “emotional” for him when NCAAs were called off, specifically for Fornaciari because she had never been there before.
“Avery qualifying for the first time in her senior year, I mean, she came in not even close to being an NCAA qualifier,” he said, “she just missed it her junior year, and then this year finally qualifies for the first time. She was on fire.”
With Fornaciari’s career now over, she said that she looks back on her growth as an athlete, proud of how she was able to develop from a freshman. She said she did not have the best work-ethic, but turned to a driven leader during her senior season, crediting former teammates Katherine Crochet, a former All-American, and Aubrey Bailey for getting her to where she was to end her career.
“They definitely motivated me because I saw the work-ethic that they put in,” said Fornaciari. “Katie Crochet was easily one of the hardest workers in the pool and out of the pool, and Aubrey Bailey was one of the most competitive people I knew. So, I feel like I took Katie’s in and out of the pool work-ethic and Aubrey’s competitiveness, and I was like, ‘there’s no reason I can’t be like that too.’”
In his first year Buehler was able to make a name for himself, as he was named the NE10 Diver of the Week on four separate occasions as well as the NE10 Rookie of the Week four times. He earned the NE10 Championship’s Championship Diving Most Outstanding Performance award, while also competing in the NCAA preliminaries before the meets were called off.
“Andrew will have a future here,” said Quill. “We’re not worried about Andrew. He’s going to have a great four-year career.”
For the coaches, this was Quill’s 12th time being named Coach of the Year on the women’s side and his 24th overall, while Etienne earned the honor for the second time. Though it is an honor for Quill, he stated that it is a “team effort,” even for the coaches.
“I’m very appreciative,” Quill said. “The award is in my name because I’m the head coach, but it’s a team effort. [All the coaches on the staff], they all play their role, and I share that award with all of them. They all make the contributions and without them I probably wouldn’t have a Coach of the Year award.”