By Noah Allison–
If success is measured by championships, then U of L’s most successful sports program is coach Arthur Albiero’s swim and dive team. Amassing five national titles in the previous four seasons, Albiero has coached an individual national champion in each year.
In 2012, Carlos Almeida won the national championship in the 200-breast stroke. The streak continued with Joao De Lucca winning the 2013 national championship in the 200-free, then in 2014 repeating as national champion in the 200-free and 100-free. Junior Kelsi Worrell was the 2015 national champion in two different events, winning the 200-fly and setting the American record in the 100-fly on her way to two national titles.
The five national titles sit atop a long list of accomplishments Louisville swim and dive has reached under Albiero’s 12-year tenure. But as the two-time NCAA Coach of the Year, Albiero seems to just be hitting his stride, and the expectations for Louisville swim and dive has never been higher.
With the two-time national champion Kelsi Worrell returning to lead Louisville in her senior campaign the women’s team is ranked in the top ten of the country after finishing a school best sixth overall at the NCAA’s last season.
“We have some pretty lofty goals, and it’s been unbelievable to see our progression,” Worrell said. “We’ve really learned not to put a limit on our goals individually and as a team. This year the top four teams bring home a trophy and that’s what we want to do, bring home a trophy.”
With individual national champion success becoming a cultural norm at U of L, the team success continues to grow with each year. Last year the women finished sixth in the country while finishing fourth in the ACC. The men finished second in the ACC while finishing 15th in the NCAA. The goal is to continue to produce individual national champions while bringing the program as a whole to new heights.
“Team culture. That’s kind of what’s expected. It goes back to our recruiting and identifying people that want to be a part of this. Culture is like brushing your teeth, even though it’s there you have to continue to work on it, at least twice a day,” head coach Albiero joked.
Inspired by a successful 2015 campaign, Worrell knows that there is a lot of talent left over from last year.
“It’s encouraging to know that last year we were sixth and didn’t have a perfect meet so we can do it this year,” Worrell said. “We know it’s going to be really hard, and we know it’s going to take All-American relays and having a lot of individual American’s too, so we’re really excited but of course it takes really high individual goals too.”
Last year Louisville’s women finished second in the NCAA in the team relay. A veteran class of seniors, including Worrell, lead both teams.
“It always starts with great seniors, and I think we have a great group of young men and women,” Albiero said. “And it’s not just if those kids are putting points on the board but it’s about their leadership and the culture going on behind the scenes. I always say at the beginning of the season the team has to go as the seniors go. This group has done a great job and I am excited to see this next stage unfold.”
The men are led by senior Nolan Tesone who finished 14th in the NCAA last year in the 400-IM.
“Nolan’s improvement curve has been pretty special from when he got here as a freshman to the level he is at today. He’s worked for every little bit of it. We’re proud of his progress and excited for the new things coming for him. Coming back from his NCAA experience you can see it in his training,” Albiero said.
As the ACC season is underway, Louisville has already taken down its first conference foe in Florida State. With both team goals and individual goals, Louisville’s prominence hasn’t hindered its improvement.
As Worrell heads into the final stretch of her already historic Louisville career she manages to keep the weight of the times in perspective.
“As upperclassmen as a whole we are all asked to lead the team. This is my second year as a captain, so this isn’t something new, and I don’t think there is added pressure based on my previous races and past seasons,” Worrell said.
“It’s fun to be on this team and we work super hard in practice. Yes, it’s individual, but we are doing every practice together, and we are shouting for each other and cheering for each other and being loud together, sometimes crying together. So yes, it’s individual but we’ve all done the work, as a team.”