Just days after securing its first CUNYAC Championship in nearly a decade, the College of Staten Island swimming and diving programs got some more good news today, collecting a total of 10 postseason citations by the City University of New York Athletic Conference. Nine of CSI’s 10 laurels came on the men’s side, none higher than freshman Timothy Sweeney’s Rookie of the Year honor, and a Coach of the Year honor for third-year skipper Michael Ackalitis. A total of seven all-stars were named on the men’s side, while the Dolphins women nabbed a single honor.
The Rookie of the Year award for Sweeney seemed like a no-brainer on paper. The first-year dynamo in the pool swept gold in every event he participated in at the CUNYAC Postseason Championship Meet, won by CSI for the first time since the 2004-05 season. Sweeney was also a three-time CUNYAC Rookie of the Week and a one-time Performer of the Week this season.
“Its a great honor to win Rookie of the Year from the CUNYAC,” said Sweeney. “It really shows how hard I have worked throughout the season, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates giving me the support I need day in and day out, helping me push to train harder.”
Some familiar faces surrounding Sweeney earned all-star honors on the men’s side as well. Junior Danila Novikov earned all-star honors in eight total events, leading CSI, while Senior Yury Zimarev, the CUNYAC Championship Meet MVP, and junior Timur Rakhimov earned all-star status in seven events. On the diving platform, two-time CUNYAC gold-medalist John Pignatelli was also an all-star.
Sweeney wasn’t the only first-year swimmer earning CUNYAC kudos. Fellow frosh Stephen O’Driscoll and Derek Villa also accept all-star honors in a total of eight events.
Over on the women’s side, Dakota Dawkins, an all-star a season ago as well, earned all-star status in the 100- and 200-yard Breaststroke events.
Typically, all-stars are earned by placing first or second place at the CUNYAC Championships in specific events.
Ackalitis, who joined the team midway through the 2011-12 season, won his Coach of the Year honor from the CUNYAC. Last year, Ackalitis won on the women’s side. This year, Ackalitis earned kudos in the men’s division, fitting after CSI’s undefeated run through the CUNYAC Regular Season and postseason performance.
“It is a great honor to win Coach of the Year in Men’s Swimming and Diving this season, its a huge testament to the hard work that my team put in all year,” Ackalaitis was quick to say. “What played a major role in this was the leadership we already had mixed in with the strong incoming class of freshmen. After everything this men’s team went through this season they showed great perseverance, never doubting themselves, and continuing to work hard toward our goal. I don’t look at this as an individual award but a team award because it truly was a team effort.”
Baruch College took the lion’s share of the major awards this season. Jacky Lau won Male Performer of the Year while Julia Song won Female Performer of the Year. They also won for Female Rookie of the Year (Daniela Giraldo), Female Coach of the Year (Charles Lampasso), and Male Sportsmanship of the Year (Daniel Donis). Lehman College’s Aytassia Estime-Kirkpatrick was given the Female Sportsmanship Award.
On the men’s side, CSI’s seven all-stars led the way, followed by Lehman’s six and Baruch’s four. On the women’s ledger, Hunter College led all with 9 all-stars, followed by Baruch’s seven, Brooklyn College’s two, and CSI’s one.
All told, CSI Head Coach Michael Ackalitis was pleased with the end-of-year praise, but was quick to cite the entire team’s productivity as a reason for the team’s success this year.
“I feel very happy for our team and their awarsd this season,” Ackalitis said. “I think what is most important is that we’ve have set the bar high for years to come and we intend on keeping our program moving forward.”
With that in mind, the Dolphins are now looking forward to the Metropolitan Swimming & Diving Championships, which take place at Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ, the weekend of February 15. Swimmers and divers spanning all NCAA Divisions compete in the Metro’s, giving CSI an elevated forum for postseason competition.