CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. The Virginia men’s swimming team will compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, which begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday at the Aquatic Center on the Georgia Tech campus. Finals of all events will be broadcast live on ACC Select at www.accselect.com.
Ranked No. 15 in the nation, the Cavaliers stand just one spot behind North Carolina in the national rankings. Florida State, which won their first league crown in 2007, enters as the defending champion.
The Cavaliers will look to continue their tradition of excellence in the ACC, despite having their streak of eight consecutive conference titles snapped last season when the squad finished second to the Seminoles.
UVa is also hoping the recent women’s victory last weekend in Atlanta will rub off a little.
“It definitely should and we are hoping that it will,” head coach Mark Bernardino said of the women’s victory. “It makes me as a coach feel really good about the taper that we had and the speed work that we did and the timing of our training over the course of the year. Hopefully that will give the men a lot of confidence. There should be no doubt in their minds about their training; they just have to believe in themselves like the women did.”
Virginia had a solid dual meet season, finishing 3-1 in conference action, the sole loss coming at the hands of North Carolina, who boasts a 4-0 record and bested the Cavaliers by a mere three points. Clemson is ahead of third-place Virginia in the ACC standings after posting a 6-2 record, but the Tigers fell to the Cavaliers early in the season.
Virginia’s strongest events will likely be the 200 free, 500 free, 1000 free, 100 fly, 200 fly, 100 back, 200 back and 800 free relay. The Cavaliers have three swimmers listed among the ACC’s top 10 in these events, according to the latest top times list.
Matt McLean and John Azar will look to dominate the 200 free, as the duo hold two of the top three times in the event. Taylor Smith and Darren Ankosko are Virginia’s two strongest distance swimmers, with Dan McMahon and Garrett Wren adding depth in the 500 and 1000 freestyle events. Lee Robertson will likely represent Virginia in the butterfly events, as he holds fast times in both the 100 and 200.
Bernardino expects there to be at least five teams in the mix at the conference championships.
“It is a deep conference, probably even more so on the men’s side,” Bernardino said. “Florida State is the defending champion and they have a big lead on us already from diving. North Carolina was the regular season undefeated champion and they have a lead on us. Virginia Tech is a very talented team with a lot of veteran swimmers and Clemson is a senior-led team, all of their athletes have been here before, and they enjoyed one of their best dual meet seasons in school history. It is really going to be an interesting meet. It is going to be closely-contested. There are five teams that could potentially win and I hope we are in the mix on the last day. It could come down to the last few events.”
Competition commences Wednesday with the 200 medley relay and 800 free relay events.