The College of Staten Island men’s and women’s swimming & diving units will be spending their weekend in the Bronx at Lehman College, participating in the annual CUNYAC Swimming & Diving Championships.  For the men’s unit the team will be looking for a fifth-straight championship, while the women continue to build on impressive third-place performances of the past.

The Dolphins graduated a healthy dose of seniors a year ago, but thanks to the influx of new recruits that have been steadily improving on their personal-best times, along with a great foundation and nucleus, Head Coach Michael Ackalitis is hoping the teams content as they usually do, with the hopes of taking home some individual and team hardware by Sunday afternoon.

“I would like to see some personal-bests achieved this weekend,” said the coach.  “I think some possible school records are in sight and I’m hopeful we can secure a couple of ECAC postseason qualifying times as well.”  

The four-time defending champs, it will be the men’s team that will be looked at as a favorite, with several teams like Baruch College, Lehman College and Brooklyn College all nipping at their heels.  CSI will look to contend in a multitude of races, as Nicholas Defonte, Jonathan Gorinshteyn and Pete Carle with all be looking to continue their great pace at the showcase.  Swimmers such as Roberto Hidalgo, Leo Litovsky, Brandon Lei, Christopher and Michael Sorensen and Trevin Robinson, have provided the depth all year and figure to be huge assets as CSI looks to accumulate points in what should be some tight races.  Of course, the Dolphins will be also eyeing big points on both the one and three-meter diving boards, where brothers Ayman and Adil El Haddad have been dominant all season and will be looking to out-do one another in an attempt for gold.

“We aren’t the biggest team in the conference in terms of numbers so it does put us at a disadvantage, but we can definitely make up some ground with our talent,” Ackalitis said.  “The key is that if we do our best and swim at our fastest we should put ourselves in a position to contend for a championship and that’s all you really want in these types of meets.”

Individually the Dolphins should hold their own, but look for relays to have a tremendous impact on who finishes first overall.  With huge points up for grabs at the three-day CUNYAC event, one might look at just the relay races to get a good indication of who will come out on top.  Ackalitis is hopeful but confident his swimmers have saved their best races for this meet.

“I think we are in the mix in all five relays,” he said.  “We figure to be in the top three in each race and if we can turn a few of those into first-place finishes we will definitely be in the mix by the time the meet is over.  It will be exciting for all of the teams in the pool.”  

Over on the women’s side, the Dolphins have certainly not lacked for their share of records and first-place finishes in the past.  Swimmers like reigning Meet MVP Ewa Wojciechowska will be looked at as favorites in their events, as will Victoria Crea and Alicia Defonte, with freshman Cecelia Mauro providing points in distance swims.  Depth has been an issue in the past with the team, and this year Ackalitis is banking on great swims from Lisnette Solano, Victoria Musarella, Gabriella Bartley and Jillian Hernandez to get the team over the third-place hump.  

“Our goal on the women’s side is to try and win as many events as possible and with Ewa and Victoria and then Alicia in the backstroke, we definitely have a chance to do that,” Ackalitis noted.  “In the past we’ve been able to steal a few relays and that shows us that we can compete with any of the other teams in the pool and we want to do that again this year.”   

Like their male counterparts, the Dolphins will look to points coming off of the board as well, as both Alyssa Dunn and Jessica Shaw have been solid on the one-meter platform all year long and both will be in heavy contention for the gold medal this weekend.

“Diving has been a tremendous asset for us in the past.  On the men’s side we are definitely going to take major points there, and on the women’s side Alyssa and Jessica have been working on some new dives that will improve on their degree of difficulty which should help them be very competitive on the one-meter.  It will be very exciting to see how our divers fare with these big stakes on the line.” 
Of course, all players and coaches want to win the CUNYAC Championship, but for Ackalitis the month of February is all about the performers being able to peak in the pool.  Should the Dolphins do that, then the results will take care of themselves, and CSI will proudly accept whatever place they fare into.

“It’s been a tough few days will all the illnesses that are going around, but our kids have worked hard all year and we are ready for this stage of the season,” he affirmed.  “At the end of the day everyone wants to achieve their best time and if they do that we will be happy.  Fast swimming is fun swimming and we plan to have a lot of fun this weekend performing at our best.” 

Although the CUNYAC Championship marks an official end to the season for CSI, the Metropolitan Swimming Championships will follow in a couple of weeks, and many times earned this weekend will earn the Dolphins entry into the prestigious multi-NCAA Divisional meet.  For a complete look at the protocol for this weekend’s meet and preliminary psyche sheets, be sure to check out the links above and be sure to follow the progress all weekend long.