The 2012-13 season was one of the Canisius College swimming and diving team’s best in recent history. The Griffs’ women competed to a fourth place finish at the MAAC Championships -- their best finish in program history – and the men finished in the top-three for the second consecutive season.
“I think now we can set our goals a little higher,” said head coach Scott Vanderzell. “I think that every athlete that comes in here wants to win a conference championship, so if we don’t make that our goal then we’re just going to sell ourselves short.”
Following the program’s best finish at the 2013 MAAC Championships, the Griffs return the holders of a combined 14 individual school records for the 2013-14 campaign.
Senior Anna Schena placed fourth in the 100- and 200-yard butterflys at the MAAC Championships and also placed fifth in the 1000-yard freestyle for the Griffs. Shena owns school records for both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and was a part of the record-holding 200- and 400-yard medley relay teams.
Junior Marissa Oakey took third in the 1650-yard freestyle at last year’s MAAC Championships. She also placed fifth in the 500-yard freestyle and sixth in the 1000-yard freestyle. Oakey holds three individual program records and was a part of four school-record setting relay teams last season.
Sophomore Clare Battaglia is the top backstroker returning for the Griffs. She placed second in the 100-yard backstroke and third in the 200-yard backstroke at the MAAC Championships. Battaglia also placed fourth in the 200-yard IM at the event.
Sophomore Alex Doody placed in the top-10 of three different events at the MAAC Championships last season, and currently holds the school-records in the 200-yard breaststroke, 100-yard freestyle and 400-yard IM.
Sprint freestyler Kelli Graber is one of four seniors on this year’s roster. Graber finished ninth in the 50-yard freestyle at the MAAC Championships. Schena, Leah Villari and Kelly Noll are the Griffs other three seniors this season.
“[The returning swimmers] have been our foundation for quite a few years now and we wanted to recruit around them,” “The freshmen coming in this year fill the holes that we’ve had and allow them to be successful in their roles and not branch out into too many things that they had to do last year. This way we can focus on our team’s strengths and not try and fill holes.”
The Griffs also return a pair of divers in sophomore Audrey Mulhisen and junior Taylor Epstein. Mulhisen finished fifth in the 1-meter dive at the MAAC Championships and ninth in the 3-meter dive. Mulhisen earned first-place finishes in the 1-meter dive and 3-meter dives in four dual meets each last season. Epstein set the 1-meter diving school-record against SUNY Geneseo last season and placed 10th in the event at the MAAC Championships.
The Griffs return 17 men in total from last year’s roster, but one noticeable name that’s absent is five-time MAAC Champion Shawn Parkhurst, who graduated last spring. Parkhurst became the first Golden Griffin in program history to earn five individual MAAC titles, when he captured two last season.
The Griffs will also have to replace Tyler Carver, Michael Disco, Matt Moessinger and Robby Novak who also graduated.
“We have a very large freshman class, we recruited them knowing we were graduating a large class, so hopefully they can come in and fill those shoes,” Vanderzell said. “We’ve got a good freshman class and good leadership at the top so I think we’ll be ok.”
The Griffs will bring in 14 newcomers on the men’s side this season, adding to the 17 returners. Sophomore Spencer Bray highlights the returning cast with his second place finishes in the 500-yard freestyle and 1000-yard freestyle at the MAAC Championships last season.
“He’s going to come in with a lot more confidence,” Vanderzell said. “He trained hard all summer long, and he understands what’s going on now where as last year he was figuring out how things went, so I expect him to come in with a lot more confidence this year.”
The Griffs experienced a great amount of success in the distance freestyle events, with senior Corey Petrie and junior Sean Wurster followed Bray in the top-eight of the 500-yard freestyle at the MAAC Championships. Junior Sam Hansen and Parkhurst each joined the trio in the top-eight of the 1000-meter freestyle at the event.
“Distance swimming can be kind of lonely sometimes, but our kids push each other day in and day out,” Vanderzell said. “They’re a great group of guys and they take the sets and challenge each other and make each other work.”
The Griffs also return a trio of divers, seniors Jake and Joel Kowalski and junior Eddie Quarantillo. Quarantillo took third overall in the 1-meter dive at the MAAC Championships and finished fifth in the 3-meter dive at the event.
The Griffs’ 2013-14 season gets underway on Friday at 11 a.m. at the Burt Flickenger Center on the campus of Erie Community College.