Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving enter the fall season with high expectations. According to the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America’s Division I preseason poll, the Virginia women are the top-ranked team in the country while the men are ranked 13th nationally. The Cavaliers delivered on those expectations in their first dual meet of the fall Saturday with a sweep of Navy at Lejeune Hall in Annapolis, Md.
On the women’s side, the Cavaliers prevailed with a score of 188-104 while also setting a pair of facility records. On the men’s side, Virginia won 181-117 with six different men winning events.
“It was great to be back competing after nine months since our last dual meet,” Coach Todd DeSorbo said. “The team has been working hard to get back into race form, and today, it was evident we are back. We were happy to have Navy host us and they are a well-coached tough team. Our men and women raced hard and learned a lot about where we are right now and where we need to go moving forward.”
Sophomore Kate Douglass led the way for the women with a trio of individual victories in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard individual medley. Notably, Douglass’s time of 48.26 in the 100-yard freestyle was the fastest-ever at Lejeune Hall. Douglass was also a member of Virginia’s 200-yard medley relay team — alongside freshman Alex Walsh, junior Alexis Wenger and sophomore Lexi Cuomo — which set a pool record with a time of 1:38.35.
Several other Cavaliers on the women’s team won their own events, including senior Paige Madden in 1,000-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke, Wenger in the 100-yard breaststroke, sophomore Ella Nelson in the 200-yard freestyle and sophomore Maddie Donohoe in the 500-yard freestyle.
In addition, Virginia saw strong performances from a pair of talented freshmen — Walsh and Abby Harter — in their first collegiate meet. Walsh swam the top times in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard breaststroke while Harter won the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events.
“The women were led by Kate Douglass’ three individual wins, really picking up where she left off last year and setting a pool record in the 100 free,” DeSorbo said. “We had several multi-event winners with Paige Madden continuing to thrive, first year Alex Walsh’s debut and Abby Harter sweeping the flys.”
For the men, junior Justin Grender posted a standout performance against Navy with individual wins in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke as well as being a member of the winning 200-yard medley relay team.
Similar to the women, the men’s team’s freshman class impressed too. Freshman Matt Brownstead won two individual events — the 50- and 100-yard freestyle. Brownstead was also a part of Virginia’s all-freshman 400-yard freestyle relay team alongside freshmen Brian Brennan, Jan Karolczak and William Cole.
Finally, four more Virginia men won individual events. Senior Keefer Barnum, senior Matthew Otto, sophomore Konnar Klinksiek and sophomore Sean Conway recorded the fastest times in the 100-yard breaststroke, the 200-yard breaststroke, the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley, respectively.
“The men are young but definitely stronger than last year,” DeSorbo said. “Leading the way was Justin Grender and first year Matt Brownstead with double wins. It was a full team effort as we had six different men win events. It was good to see our first years embrace the team environment and contribute at a high level as well as our upperclassmen leading the way. I’m looking forward to watching this team develop this season. They’ll be a force by season end.”
As a result of their performances against Navy, Douglass and Brownstead were named the ACC Swimmers of the Week.
Overall, Virginia’s swimmers were terrific Saturday as the Cavaliers won 24 of the 28 swim events against the Midshipmen. On the other hand, an area of weakness for Virginia during the dual meet was the diving events. Navy divers junior Hannah Montau and seniors Patrick Carter and Jack Hedrick won all four boards which consisted of the one- and three-meter events for both men and women.
For Virginia, senior Jocelyn Porter and sophomore Charlotte Bowen placed second in the one- and three-meter boards, respectively, behind Montau. Freshman Cavalier Oliver Mills was the Virginia men’s top diver with runner-up finishes in both the one- and three-meter boards.
"It was great to be back on the boards in a meet again," Navy diving coach Rich MacDonald said. "We're definitely a bit rusty, but I was proud of how they competed. To win all four boards against a team of Virginia's talent is a testament to how hard our divers have been working."
Virginia’s dual meet with Navy marked the swimming and diving teams’ first competition since the 2020 ACC Championships back in February. At that time, the women’s team claimed its 16th ACC title in historic fashion and the men’s team finished second in a very competitive conference.
The teams were preparing for the national championships in March — which the Virginia women were seeded to win — when their season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Virginia returns 20 of its 31 CSCAA All-Americans from last year and welcomes multiple top-tier recruits from across the country. Clearly, the Cavaliers are ready to take care of unfinished business.
Virginia’s next collegiate competition will be held Nov. 19 to 21 when the Cavaliers travel to Knoxville, Tenn. to face two SEC programs in Tennessee and Alabama — both of which are ranked in the top 15 on the men’s and women’s side. However, before that, Virginia will send team members to the Toyota U.S. Open, which will be in Richmond Nov. 12 to 14.