Oct. 5, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - A new era of Tulane swimming and diving will begin on Saturday, Oct. 6, when the Green Wave travel to Little Rock, Ark., to open the 2012-13 season against UALR at the Donaghey Center Natatorium. The meet is slated to begin at 10 a.m.
Not only will the Tulane team be under new direction in interim head coach T.J. Natal, but it will also mark the first time since 1990 that the Green Wave roster will feature a four-year class ranging from first-year freshmen to fourth-year seniors. Natal is in his first season as a collegiate head coach after serving as the team's volunteer assistant in 2010-11 and as a full-time assistant last year.
"I think the team is very excited, especially the freshmen," Natal said. "They're pumped and excited to get out and start their college experience, as well as the rest of the girls. I think we match up very well against them. We're swimming a format the definitely benefits us in the shorter sprint side, especially this early in the season. I think our girls are prepared and I believe we are matched up very nicely in the events that we're going to swim against them."
Last season, the Green Wave finished with a 1-8 dual-meet record, posted a 10th-place showing in the 2011 UH Cougar Classic and finished fifth in the 2012 Conference USA Championship. Natal and the Tulane team look to improve on those numbers as 22 letterwinners return from a year ago, including 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. Also back are juniors Cari Caprio, Caitlin Corcoran, Sadie Eicher and Rachel Ranson, along with sophomores Rebecca Dugan, Morgan Evans, Molly Jubas, Vanessa Loewen, Amy Needham, Claire Schelske and Laura Turpen.
"I definitely think the freshmen and sophomores are going to benefit the most from the leadership on the team, especially from the seniors," Natal said. "The seniors have kind of done this before. There's a new kind of excitement in the air this year. Practice has been off the charts in the last week and a half to two weeks. The morale of the team, the motivation and the work ethic have been coming forth and I think we're really primed to have a good meet."
UALR, meanwhile, enters Saturday's meet 0-1 on the year after dropping a 154-77 decision to North Texas on Friday afternoon. In that meet, the Trojans posted individual wins in the 50 free, 500 free and 200 backstroke while also emerging victorious in the 200 free relay.
"The girls have been training extremely well," Natal added. "They're putting in lots of hard work and I think it's very important for them to see a little progress in the beginning of the season. I don't think we're going to put up spectacular times or anything out of this world, but I think the girls are very confident in what we've done. To show results that back that up would go a long way to carrying us through the rest of the season. I think it's very important for us to get off on the right foot."
Following Saturday's meet in Little Rock, the Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Oct. 20, when they play host to North Texas at 11 a.m. in the Reily Student Recreation Center Natatorium. Admission to all Tulane home swim meets is free.