The College of Staten Island first winter sports team will debut their 2016-17 season tonight, as the women’s swimming and diving team gets set to take on John Jay College on their season and CUNYAC debut. The Dolphins are on familiar ground as they enter the 2016-17 campaign. According to Head Coach Michael Ackalitis, the team substitute’s quantity for quality, and hope to be a force in meets this season by ranking near the top in many events.
“We graduated four seniors and we regained an equal amount in terms of new and returning faces so like last year we will have a team led by juniors and seniors, supported by relatively new talent,” said Ackalitis. “We will be limited in terms of numbers but we have great quality that we hope will come together nicely.”
Ackalitis is excited about his returning unit, and much of that is due to the consistent improvement they have shown over the years. That should be evident with senior cluster Olivia Brown, Samantha Escobedo, Naomi Gaggi, and Jamilia Mambetalieva. All of the upperclassmen are expected to break through top performances this season, and together with junior Ewa Wojciechowska, they hope to challenge some CSI records in the process.
“We have a great mix of middle-distance, sprint, and long-distance swimmers with our upperclassmen and that’s ahuge plus for us because everyone goels together nicely,” the coach said. “Our leadership is terrific as well. All of our seniors and juniors have spent their entire careers here and it makes it that much more seamless and they are very invested in the program.”
It gets better from there, as rejoining the team for sophomore seasons will be Victoria Crea and Jessica Shaw. Crea was a CUNYAC gold medalists who missed 2015-16 due to injury and is 100% healthy for the start this season, while Shaw takes over on the diving boards alongside freshman Nouran Abualam, being able to score major points and continuing a winning CSI tradition on the platform.
“It’s reallyexciting to get Victoria back. Not only is she a great swimmer but she rounds out our relay teams so theat they are some of the best in the conference and we are looking forward to some big things there,” Ackalitis noted. ” I think our diving will do well this season, especially knowing that Jessica will be on the three-meter boards. There has been a lot of development there and it will translate into points come competition time.”
Ackalitis admits that depth could be the struggle for his unit, as it will suffer in terms of numbers. But big things are expected from his freshman class. Alongside Abualam on the diving boards is Alicia Defonte and Victoria Musarella. Both are expected to see their fair share of time in the water and scoring valuable points, and more than anything else, Ackalitis expects them to blossom and get better and better with each meet.
“I think alll of our first-year faces will play a major role. Alicia Defonte has shown great signs as a backstroker and makes us a lot stronger in that stroke, while Nouran will battle on the boards as well. Together with Victoria (Musarella) we are hoping that they all will continue to outdo themselves in the pool with every meet.”
When it all comes together, Ackalitis is always hopeful of a championship, but more than anything, he wants his unit to shine individually, constantly setting the bar higher and higher with each member setting strong personal bests to aspire to. According to the head coach, if CSI is successful at doing that, they should turn plenty of heads.
“We are definitely trying to get the best times and set new school records this year and that’s our focus coming in,” he said. “We want to be able to peak and string together some first place finishes at the CUNYAC Championships and hopefully get some ECAC qualifying times under wraps.”
All of CSI’s home matches are FREE and PG-CLUE Certified for all CSI students. The CSI schedule features eight matches during the fall semester and six more in the spring leading up to the CUNYAC Championship in early-February and the Metro Championships in mid-February.