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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams open the 2009-10 season at 1 p.m. Friday against Florida at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. Diving events are set to begin at noon and live results will be available through

Both the Cavalier squads are coming off their second consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 2009. The men went on to place ninth at the NCAA Championships, the best finish in school history, while the women earned a 12th-place showing.

The Florida men are coming off a fifth-place finish at NCAAs, while the women claimed the SEC title and went on to place seventh at the national meet.

“I like to open the season with a really tough opponent and have tried to do so for as long as I have been here,” Virginia head coach Mark Bernardino said. “The simple reason is if an opponent as outstanding and strong as Florida doesn’t get the attention of your athletes, then what will? It could potentially be a very long season. So I want to go into competition with as tough of a matchup as I can find to start the season.”

The Cavaliers return 17 All-Americans this season, including nine women and eight men. The 2009 ACC Swimmer of the Year, senior Mei Christensen, is back to defend her conference titles in both the 100 and 200 backstroke, as is Claire Crippen in the 400 individual medley. All five Cavalier relays claimed first-place honors at ACCs and went on to garner All-America honors.

Juniors Matt McLean and Scot Robison return to defend their conference titles for the men. McLean, the 2009 Swimmer of the ACC Championships, claimed wins in the 200, 500 and 1650 freestyle events, while Robison took the 100 freestyle title. Like the women, all five Virginia relay teams picked up All-America honors at the NCAA meet.

“This is the earliest we have ever started the season so what I am looking for is just to see how well people race,” Bernardino continued. “I just want to see what they are willing to give of themselves within a race. If there is any place where we are lagging, Friday will serve as a wake-up call. It will be a powerful reminder for what we need to do better.”

The Florida women claimed their 17th SEC crown and first since 2002 after edging out Auburn and Georgia in the last relay of the championships. The Gators sent 13 student-athletes to the NCAA meet and on the final day of competition, Gemma Spofforth, Teresa Crippen and Stephanie Proud went 1-2-3 in the 200-yard backstroke; Spofforth and Crippen both return for Florida. Spofforth, a 2008 Olympian for her native England, was tabbed the 2009 SEC Swimmer of the Year and has claimed five NCAA titles in her career, including three in the 200 back and two in the 100 back.

On the men’s side, Florida sent 11 members to the NCAA Championships and came away with a fifth-place finish at NCAAs, including two individual titles for Shaune Fraser, who returns in 2009-10. Fraser is a two-time Olympian (2004, 2008) for his native Cayman Islands. The Gators finished second for the eighth-consecutive year to SEC Champion Auburn at the conference meet.

In the all-time series, Virginia has yet to defeat Florida in dual-meet competition. Both the UF men and women hold a 7-0 advantage over the Cavaliers. Last year in Gainesville, the Gator men defeated UVa 169-129 while the women suffered a 166-132 setback.

The match-up between the Cavaliers and Gators will also feature a pair of sisters competing against each other for the second time in the college ranks. Virginia junior Claire Crippen, a native of Conshohocken, Pa., will be swimming against her younger sister Teresa, a sophomore at UF. The Crippens’ older sister Maddy swam at Villanova (1998-2002) while their older brother Fran swam under Bernardino at UVa (2002-06).

Because of construction near the Aquatic and Fitness Center, parking adjacent to the facility is limited and parking rules are being stringently enforced. Metered parking will be available at the Aquatic and Fitness Center and Slaughter Recreation Center (a five minute walk) for spectators. Please note your space number and pay the meter inside the facility. Spaces designated for those individuals in possession of a handicapped parking permit are located off Alderman Road on the west side of the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

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