Oct. 17, 2012
DAVIS, Calif. - The UC Davis women's swimming and diving team essentially has two season openers. The first takes place this Saturday, during Day 2 of the 23rd Pacific Invitational at Chris Kjeldsen Aquatics Complex. The second includes the divers, taking the form of a home dual meet with San Jose State on October 27.
In each case, the meets represent the first steps toward meeting the Aggies' primary goals for 2012-13: a high finish at the increasingly tougher Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships, and an improved performance in dual meets.
UC Davis won the inaugural MPSF title in 2011, defeating runner-up UC Santa Barbara by almost 100 points. The Aggies placed third last season behind the Gauchos and new member Brigham Young. This year, the league expands to include Hawai'i, which spent the previous 16 seasons as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
The Aggies have beefed up their dual schedule as well. In addition to the San Jose State matchup in the October 27 home opener, UC Davis takes on the likes of UCLA, Washington State, Loyola Marymount, San Diego and Nevada during three November meets. The Aggies will also host Pacific (Jan. 12) and Cal State Bakersfield (Jan. 19) in home meets during the winter quarter.
"The team wants to be highly competitive at every dual meet this year," said Barbara Jahn, now in her 38th year at the helm. "In the past, we have modified our entries so we were swimming in off events. When you do that, sometimes it's hard to take it seriously. This year, they said they want to be focusing on hard competition throughout so that we're ready for really stiff competition when it comes time for the conference championships."
UC Davis will attempt to fill the void of departed senior Kayleigh Foley, who won three individual and one relay title at last year's conference meet. However, 10 of the 12 All-MPSF honorees return for the upcoming season, most notably junior Liliana Alvarez, who won the 100-yard breaststroke championship at the MPSF meet and made her second straight NCAA Championships appearance. Junior Katie Edwards captured first-team All-MPSF honors in three individual events plus as part of the champion 400 free relay in 2012.
Jahn also cites a few key newcomers who will provide some additional punch this season. Junior sprinter Haley Porter arrives at UC Davis from UNLV via Sierra College, a path eerily similar to Renee Dyer, who went from Utah to Sierra to the Aggies before winning a Big West Conference title in 2005. Samantha Shellem, one of Cal's top distance freestylers in 2010-11, has joined Jahn's program as well. Additionally, San Ramon Valley High alum Marissa Brown earned NISCA All-America honors in two freestyle events as a senior. Her 500 free time of 4:52.58 last year would have placed her among the top three at last year's MPSF meet.
The start of the 2012-13 season also closes an eventful offseason for the UC Davis aquatics program. Assistant coach Pete Motekaitis, who guided alumnus Scott Weltz to a fifth-place finish at the London Olympics, was recently selected as a member of the USA Swimming coaching staff. Weltz, for his part, serves as a volunteer assistant for the women's program while training alongside the current Aggie women. He will compete at the Minneapolis Grand Prix event in early November then will represent his country once again at the 11th FINA World Championships in Istanbul during December.
Saturday's Pacific Invite begins at 10 a.m. Results are available at http://pacifictigers.com/sports/m-swimonly/2012-13/2012_pacific_invitational/Tournament_Page while live streaming video is available at http://pacifictigers.com/sports/m-swimonly/2012-13/live_video_streaming.