PITMAN, NJ – Rowan University collected all six first-place votes as the Profs are predicted to three-peat as New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Women's Swimming and Diving Champions, based on a preseason poll of the league's coaches.
The College of New Jersey is predicted to finish second in the league standings, followed by Montclair State University in third. The Red Hawks were picked as this year's dark horse squad to watch. Ramapo College (4), William Paterson Unversity (5), and Kean University (6) round out the preseason coaches poll.
The Profs went 9-2 overall last year and posted a perfect 5-0 record in NJAC dual meets. They are led by head coach Brad Bowser, entering his fifth season at the helm with a 27-14 record in Glassboro. The two-time defending conference champions and 2017-18 Metropolitan Conference champions return 18 swimmers and divers. Nine of those were NJAC All-Conference first team honorees last season, including 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Veronica Alferez, Miranda Coughlan, Carlee Timmins, Alex Bambrick, Bailey Howarth, Gabby Gligor, Antonia Simunek, Elizabeth O'Brien, and Megan Miller. The Profs also return their top two divers in Corinne Finkbinder and Klaudia Rzotkiewicz, who qualified for the NCAA Diving Regionals in the one-meter board last season.
TCNJ was 4-5 overall and 3-2 in NJAC meets last season as the Lions finished third in the conference standings. They look to capitalize on a strong finish to last season as the Lions placed third out of 18 teams in the Metropolitan Conference meet. Head coach Jennifer Harnett, entering her 17th season in Ewing with a 97-59 record, looks to a solid group of returners that includes two NJAC All-Conference first team honorees in Annie Menninger and Melanie Fosko. The Lions graduated a number of top seniors last year, but Harnett is excited about a solid group of freshmen eager to start their collegiate careers.
Montclair State was picked third in the preseason poll and is considered the dark horse to contend for a conference title after the Red Hawks went 8-2 overall and 4-1 in conference meets to finish second in the standings. The Red Hawks are led by Brian McLaughlin, entering his 30th year at the helm of the program. They have a number of core returners, including 2017-18 NJAC Diver of the Year Grace Nielsen along with NJAC All-Conference first team honorees Maddie Franke and Christina Cusmano. Nielsen placed in the top 20 in both the one- and three-meter boards at the NCAA Diving Regional last year and the team was fourth among 18 teams in the Metropolitan Conference Championship.
Ramapo is fourth in the poll after a fourth place finish last year with a 2-3 NJAC mark and 4-6 overall record. The Roadrunners will certainly miss the talents of national qualifier Maggie Herbert and a strong graduated class, but head coach Gary Orr (12th season) is confident in a deep and talented freshmen and sophomore class. Several all-conference performers return to the pool in Mahwah, including NJAC second team honoree Kassandra Warmuz as well as NJAC honorable mention selections Breanna Gleason and Eliza Pluckhorn.
William Paterson enters the season predicted to finish fifth in the standings after a fifth place finish last season as well. The Pioneers went 11-5 overall in dual meets and 1-4 in the NJAC, while finishing 10th at the Metropolitan Conference meet. Ed Gurka leads the Pioneers, and is entering his 43rd season with a 383-191-3 dual meet career record. He will look to a core group of upperclassmen, including seniors Quinn Reynolds and Casey Murphy and juniors Anna Boyton and Mariah Jenkins. A talented freshmen class is expected to add depth at the back and fly events. Diver Ashley Lawler is also back on the board for the Pioneers, after finishing in the top six at Mets last year.
Kean rounds out the predictions as the Cougars' women's swimming squad enters its second season since the program was brought back last year. The squad, comprised of mainly freshmen last year, gained experience at the collegiate level and improved throughout to post season bests at the Metropolitan championships to conclude the year.
The dual meet season begins on Friday, Oct. 12.
2018-19 NJAC Coaches Preseason
Women's Swimming & Diving Poll
1. Rowan University (6)
2. The College of New Jersey
3. Montclair State University (dark horse)
4. Ramapo College
5. William Paterson University
6. Kean University