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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. The Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams open the 2007-08 season Thursday against Florida. The dual meet is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

Head coach Mark Bernardino will embark on his 30th season at the helm of the program when the Cavaliers compete Thursday. In 29 years, Bernardino has coached the men’s and women’s squads to 15 Atlantic Coast Conference titles and has mentored over 100 All-Americans.

Virginia returns 22 letterwinners on the men’s side, including Pat Mellors and Ryan Hurley, who recently earned spots on the United States national team. Teammate Pat Reams was an ACC all-conference performer in the 100 meter butterfly, as was Bjorn Falk in the 200 backstroke.

The women return 16 letterwinners from a year ago, including the 800 freestyle All-America relay team of Megan Evo, Jessica Lewis, Stephanie Glover and Jenna Harris. Lewis also is a returning ACC champion in the 200 freestyle. Returning all-conference performers also include Jenn Narum in the 500 freestyle, Mei Christensen in the 100 and 200 backstroke events and Lewis in the 100 freestyle.

Florida, meanwhile, is a strong season-opening opponent. The Gator men finished fourth at the 2007 NCAA Championships and the women’s squad placed seventh in the nation a year ago.

Tobias Work is one of 22 returning letterwinners for the Florida men. Work won six medals at the Pan American Games over the summer and also claimed bronze in the 400 freestyle at the U.S. National Championships in Indianapolis. On the women’s team, Carolina Burckle, who was recently named to the national team, won the 800 freestyle at the Pan American Games. Gemma Spofforth, a native of England, was the 2007 NCAA champion in the 200 backstroke and finished sixth overall at the U.S. National Championships over the summer.

Florida and Virginia are meeting in dual competition for the second consecutive year. The two teams battled in January last season down in Gainsville, with Florida coming away with wins by both the men and women. The Gator men defeated Virginia 176-104 while the women also fell, 159-122.

Virginia has faced Florida just five times in history. The Cavaliers have yet to defeat the Gators.

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