T.J. Natal will assume the role as interim head coach of the Tulane swimming and diving team after serving as an assistant with the Green Wave the last two seasons.
Aug. 15, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Lena Guarriello has resigned her position as the head of the Tulane University swimming and diving program and assistant coach T.J. Natal has been named interim head coach, Green Wave Director of Athletics Rick Dickson announced on Wednesday.
Guarriello, who served as an assistant coach at Tulane from 2004-06 and as head coach for the past three seasons, left the program to accept a position as swim coach at Plano West (Texas) High School and physical education teacher at Mitchell Elementary. Natal, meanwhile, will assume head coaching duties immediately. A national search for a head coach will take place at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season.
"I would like to thank Lena for all of her contributions and efforts in restarting and restoring our women's swimming and diving program," Dickson said. "I know this was a very difficult decision for Lena, but we wish her and her family happiness and success going forward."
In three seasons at the helm of the Green Wave program, Guarriello was instrumental in restarting the swimming and diving team which had been inactive since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina forced the University to suspend operations following the 2005-06 season.
After being hired on as head coach for the program's 2009-10 return to the pool, Guarriello helped the team set records in eight events and her squad combined for 156 lifetime best performances. Along the way, Kayla Alf-Huynh was named a Mid-Major All-American, Sadie Eicher was named Conference USA Freshman Diver of the Year and Kylie Kastes claimed C-USA Newcomer of the Year honors. As an assistant, Guarriello was instrumental in the Green Wave's run to the C-USA Championship in 2005.
Away from the pool, several of her student-athletes claimed C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll recognition and her teams claimed Scholar All-American status from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America each semester Guarriello served as head coach.
"I can't thank Rick Dickson and Tulane University enough for providing me the opportunity to re-establish the swimming and diving program over the last four years," Guarriello said. "I'm very proud of the young women that have grown this program and of their commitment to excellence both in the pool and in the classroom.
"My family and I are grateful for the amount of support we've received this past week and we wish the best for Tulane Athletics for the upcoming year and beyond."
Natal, meanwhile, will be assuming his third role in as many seasons at Tulane after serving as a volunteer assistant in 2009-10 and as a full-time assistant a year ago.
A native of the New Orleans area and a graduate of nearby Archbishop Rummel High School and Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Natal came to Tulane following a stint as an assistant coach for the University of New Orleans' men's and women's swimming programs during the 2009-10 season. During that time, he helped eight swimmers earn NCAA B Cuts, coached a pair of conference champions and had several top eight finishers at the Sun Belt Conference Championship meet.
In addition, Natal served as head coach of the USS Elmwood Sharks in Harahan, La., from 2006-11 where he helped increase membership from 55 swimmers to 125 over a five-year period. After inheriting a team with no section or Junior National qualifiers, he helped 22 individuals qualify for sectionals, coached five high school All-Americans and helped four swimmers qualify for Junior Nationals.
Natal began his coaching career at Jefferson Country Club in 1998 and held the position until 2007. From there, he took over as head coach at Archbishop Chapelle High in 2007 and also served as an assistant with the Elmwood Sharks from 2004-06.
As a student-athlete, Natal lettered four years at Rummel where he was a four-time all-district honoree and claimed all-state honors on three occasions. He won the state high school titles in the 100 free as a junior in 1998 and both the 50 and 100 free as a senior in 1999. A two-time prep All-American, Natal also swam for the Elmwood Sharks from 1992-99 where he posted six Junior National cuts and one Senior National cut.
After graduating from Rummel in 1999, Natal spent one year at Loyola University before transferring to LSU where he swam for the Tigers from 2001-03. He completed his bachelor's degree in education from Our Lady of Holy Cross College in 2006 and is currently pursuing his MBA from UNO.
"I'm very excited for this opportunity and I look forward to helping the swimming and diving program continue to move forward. Lena did a great job these last three seasons and it is my goal to pick up where she left off and follow the blueprint she established to build this team into a conference champion."
Natal will take over a Tulane program that is expected to return 22 letterwinners from last year's squad. In addition to incoming freshmen Elizabeth Cook, Holly Grender, Harley Jackson, Emily Josef, Maren Kjell, Anna Lewis Matson, Roni Meyer, Mia Schachter and Rachel Schneider, the 2012-13 Green Wave roster will also feature the talents of seniors Kayla Alf-Huynh, Kristin Ates, Gisele Calderon, Erin Cunningham, Jillian Daleiden, Allie Evans, Kristine Gu, Rebekah Harris, Emily Needham, Lauren Pfohl, Grace Tarka and Elizabeth Whitaker, juniors Cari Caprio, Caitlin Corcoran, Sadie Eicher and Rachel Ranson, and sophomores Rebecca Dugan, Morgan Evans, Molly Jubas, Vanessa Loewen, Amy Needham, Claire Schelske, Laura Turpen.