It has been a full week since the Dolphins last entered the competitive waters, and the team is anxious for their final day in waiting as they get set to take the City University of New York Athletic Conference Championship Meet by storm this weekend.  The action kicks off tomorrow afternoon at the Lehman College Apex, and the CSI men will be looking to bring home their fourth consecutive crown while the women will be eyeing a rise in the ranks that saw them claim third place a year ago.

“The excitement is definitely there,” said Acakalitis.  “Between our trip to Florida and then the winter break with no classes, things seem to get a little repetitive.  Now that the Championship season is upon us, everyone is ready to go and the week seems to be going so slowly because everyone wants to get out in the pool and swim their best.”

There are plenty of reasons to be excited on both ends of the pool if you’re a Dolphins fan, but the men’s team especially holds promise for another excellent run through the field.  CSI had more first place finishes than any other team at last year’s championship, putting plenty of distance between them and the rest of the pack.  Among the leaders in times achieved in a multitude of races during the regular season, it’s hard not to paint CSI the favorite once again this year, but the Dolphins are fine with that billing, according to their coach.

“It comes with a lot of pressure, but I think it makes us all better,” he commented.  “The other teams, especially Baruch, have added a lot of talent this year and it’s probably going to mean a much tighter race this year.  It seems like we have a target on our backs now more than ever, but it’s a good thing because it gets everyone excited and ready to be at their best.” 

The Dolphins will be relying heavily on senior duo Timothy Sweeney and Derek Villa to carry the momentum.  Sweeney is a perfect 21-for-21 in individual and relay races at the CUNYAC Championship the past three years and will look to continue perfection this weekend, while Villa is at the top of the class in distance events that CSI has consistently excelled at.  Alongside top point-earners like Nicholas Defonte and Jonathan Gorinshteyn, combined with divers Adil and Ayman El-Haddad, this could be a magical ride for the Dolphins, and each day should carry plenty of highlights.

“We’ve been great at the top but it takes a well-balanced attack,” Ackalitis said.  “Usually our diving and our relays puts us in a nice position to start and then we need to hold the lead against teams with more depth.  That means the longer the event goes, the better are more focused we need to be, especially on that final day, and this year, it’s going to take everyone being at their best.” 

While the men will be facing the challenge of defending a title, the women will be looking for advanced standing on the final leaderboard.  The Dolphins finished third last season, but expect to content at the top in many races at the Championship, especially in relay events.  Alongside their proficiency there, CSI likes their chances with swimmers like Ewa Wojciechowska in sprint and Naomi Gaggi in distance events, coupled with Samantha Escobedo, Victoria Crea, and Alicia Defonte adding to the depth.  On the diving boards, Nouran Abualam and Jessica Shaw will be jockeying for a gold medal on both one and three-meter boards.

“We are very excited to swim fast on the women’s side and contend for gold medals, set personal, pool, and school records and qualify for ECAC’s as well,” he said.  “We put a lot of emphasis on our relay events and it’s always a goal of ours to get gold there and we’ve been able to in the past and we want to continue that trend.”  

In short, the bar has always been set high for Ackalitis and his pupils, but that bar may be lifted a bit higher this year given where the Dolphins are coming from and where they ultimately want to go.

“You never know how things are going to shake out so our focus is simply on swimming fast,” the coach noted.  “If we do that, we know we will be right there near the top.  We all know what is at stake and we all know what our potential is, so now we just need to go out there and do it and the final standings will take care of themselves.”

The CUNYAC Championship is a three-day event at Lehman College.  On Friday, the meet will open at 2:00pm with diving and will feature three individual events sandwiched between two relays.  Saturday wraps up diving and features eight more events and Sunday marks the conclusion with six events, leading to the announcement of champions and presentations to the year-end winners.

Tickets to the Championship Meet are FREE, but fans seeking entry will need tickets for access.  They are available via the CUNYAC Website HERE.