By Matt Bradshaw —
Swimming and diving has raced into 2019 with tons of momentum. The men’s and women’s teams won their opening meet at Missouri, swept Northwestern at home and notched a tough loss to rival Kentucky in Lexington. Both Louisville squads are currently ranked in the top-20.
Senior day against Northwestern saw the program honor its 11 veterans who graduate in the spring.
“Senior Day is always bittersweet to go through that emotion and then try to get up and swim fast, so it’s a little bit of a mixed bag,” head coach Arthur Albiero said. “It’s a packed house to honor this group, and I think for us to get back to racing is the most important thing. It’s the second meet this semester and you could tell there’s still a few things we need to work on. We’re making progress in a lot of ways, but we have a long way to go. That’s good news. We’ve got work to do.”
Five seniors race for the women’s side: Sophie Cattermole, Mallory Comerford, Alina Kendzior, Gracie Long and Emily Moser. Each veteran helped guide the way for a 166-134 victory over the visiting Wildcats. Senior Caitlin Ahern, who competed for the Cardinals for three years, was also honored as team manager.
“It starts with the leadership,” Albiero said. “Seniors and captains have done a phenomenal job with setting the tone.”
Five seniors race for the men’s side: Marcelo Acosta, Abel Aulbach, Daniel Fecteau, Zach Harting and Mate Kovacs. The U of L men’s team rolled to a 200-100 win over Northwestern.
Following senior day at Ralph Wright Natatorium, U of L traveled down the road for a bout with UK. The No. 16 Louisville women and No. 8 men both lost the meet despite winning 12 races.
“I’m proud of our team effort. We had a number of people step up and perform well, but obviously we let too many opportunities escape us,” Albiero said. “We battled hard until the very last moment, but just fell short on both sides. We will continue to learn and get a little better daily. This meet will help us sharpen our preparation for our championship season.”
The ACC Championships approach next month in late February. Like it is with all Louisville sports, conference competition is the toughest in the nation.
“This is that time of the season where it’s championship time,” Albiero said. “The conference continues to get better and better, which is a credit to our opponents. But we’ve had something to do with that too.”
Since becoming a member of the conference, Cardinals swimming and diving has continually improved year-to-year. Both the women’s and men’s teams finished second at the ACC Championships last season.
The women followed with fifth place at the 2018 NCAA Championships, a program-best finish, and the men finished ninth.
“As some of our peer coaches have said, Louisville made the ACC better,” Albiero said. “That could be said about every sport. The one thing you know you’re going to get from us: We’re going to compete with great heart. That just brings the best out of everybody.”
Last year’s NCAAs featured Comerford winning her second consecutive national championship in the 200 free. The senior stays focused on the coming championships while recognizing the importance of treating every race equally.
“At the end of the day I’m not defending anything,” Comerford said, when asked about defending her national title. “I get to do what I love every day, so it’s just going out racing again. All of my experiences have prepared me for it. You’re not given anything, so you have to go out there and race with your heart every time.”
Next up, Louisville travels to face the Indiana Hoosiers on Feb. 1.
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Photos by Jessica Abell / The Louisville Cardinal