Arizona Swimming and Diving Opens 2003 Season Against Wisconsin

Oct. 28, 2003

This Week at the Pool - The sixth-ranked Arizona women's swimming and diving team and the 16th-ranked Arizona men's team are set to open their 2003-04 season at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center on Friday, Oct. 31. The Wildcats will face the No. 11 Wisconsin men's team and the No. 10 women's team, at 2 p.m. MST. Arizona will then participate in an exhibition swim meet against Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 1, at noon in the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.

The Opponent - Wisconsin Badgers - The 11th-ranked Wisconsin men's team finished the 2002-03 season with a 10-2 overall record and a 3-1 mark in the Big Ten Conference. The team placed fifth at the Big Ten Championships and 13th at the NCAA Championships. On the women's side, the 10th-ranked Badgers finished with a 12-1 record and a 5-0 record in the Big Ten. The women's team finished second in the Big Ten championships and 12th at the national championship meet. Wisconsin made a big splash to start the 2003-04 season on Oct. 25, as the Badgers posted a 172-116 victory over Iowa. Wisconsin also started the season off on a good note, setting two pool records in the men's 400 medley and 200 freestyle relay.

What Happened Last Season Between the Wildcats and Badgers? - The Arizona men's team fell to Wisconsin, 69-24, in the season opener on Nov. 2, 2002, while the Wildcat women's team defeated the Badgers, 94-87.

A Quick Look at the 2003-04 Arizona Men's Squad - The Arizona men's team returns 14 letterwinners from the 2002-03 season, including sophomore sensation Simon Burnett, who took home the NCAA title in the 200 freestyle as a freshman, with a time of 1:33.69. Burnett will remain in Britain to train for the 2004 Olympics and will miss UA's fall semester, but he will rejoin the Wildcats in January. Other returnees to watch will be senior Luis Rojas, who finished as the NCAA runner-up in the 100 butterfly with a school- record time of 46:01. Rojas returns for his final season listed as one of Arizona's top sprinters. Senior Juan Veloz, the 2003 NCAA runner-up in the 200 butterfly, is expected to be one of Arizona's top swimmers in the butterfly and individual medley events this season. Senior Eric La Fleur will contribute much experience for the Cats in the freestyle sprints, along with fellow senior Greg Owen, one of the top returnees in the breaststroke. Teammate Chad Ainsworth will be heavily relied upon to carry the Wildcats in the distance freestyle events. On the diving side, senior captain Alex Vollelunga and sophomore John Collier return with solid experience in both springboard events. Arizona's top diver, senior Josh Anderson, is redshirting this year in preparation for the 2004 Olympics. Six newcomers join the men's team this season. Sophomore transfer Tyler DeBerry competed at the University of Michigan last year as a part of the 800 freestyle relay that finished third at the 2003 NCAA Championships. Freshmen Nate Rothman and Adam Ritter also are expected to contribute to the Wildcats right away.

A Look at the 2003-04 Arizona Women's Squad - The Arizona women's team also returns 14 letterwinners from the 2002-03 squad. Topping the list is junior Emily Mason, who finished as the runner-up in the 200 butterfly and the 400 individual medley at the 2003 NCAA Championships. Fellow junior Jessica Hayes will be competitive in the sprint free, middle distance free, backstroke and the individual medley events this season. Senior Jessica Wagner enters the season as the top breaststroke competitor for the Wildcats in 2003. Wagner finished sixth in the 100 breast at the NCAA Championships. Senior Marshi Smith will compete in the sprint free and back, as well after finishing in the top 15 at the national championship meet last season. Other returnees to look for are sophomores Lisa Pursley, Jenna Gresdal, Katie Willis and Erin Sieper - a quartet highly anticipated to do well this season by the Arizona coaching staff. On the diving side, seniors Daniela Bemme and Jennifer Hess are expected to lead the way to a successful season for the Wildcats, and they will get support from UA's highly anticipated freshman, Mary Yarrison. All-American Claire Febvay will redshirt during this season in order to prepare for the 2004 Olympics. This year's squad features 12 newcomers who are expected to have an immediate impact on the team. Included in this promising group is Whitney Meyers, a national champion in the 100m fly at the 2002 Senior Nationals, from Oxford, Ohio. Freshmen Melissa Johnson and Emily Strouse also are expected to give Arizona a lift this season. Johnson will give the Wildcats a lift in the distance free events, while Strouse is expected to compete in the individual medleys.

Head Coach Frank Busch - Head coach Frank Busch enters his 15th year at the helm of the UA swimming and diving program. Busch has transformed University of Arizona swimming into one of the nation's most powerful programs. Busch enters the new year with a continued commitment to bringing honor to the University of Arizona through the success of its swimming and diving program. Busch has been named Pac-10 Women's Coach of the Year three times, Pac-10 Men's Coach of the Year two times, and he earned NCAA Division I-A Coach of the Year honors in 1993.

Busch's Outlook for the Men's Team - 'Our men's team will be very solid, in that we have athletes in all events, so we're going to be in a position where we can have a lot of swims at NCAAs. I like our men's team, and I think that we can finish higher at NCAAs this year than we did last year.'

Busch's Outlook for the Women's Team - 'The women had been consistently in the top five for many years, and last year the reason that we slipped a few places was because we were weak in freestyle. It was the first time in probably 10 years that both of our short freestyle relays didn't finish in the top eight. That being said, I think we'll be better in those events, and it's our goal to make sure that we have all of our relays in the top eight.'

Head Diving Coach Michele Mitchell-Rocha - Head coach Michele Mitchell-Rocha enters her eighth year with the Wildcat diving program. Mitchell-Rocha is a four-time recipient of the men's Pac-10 Diving Coach of the Year.

Mitchell-Rocha's Outlook for the Men's Diving Team - 'We have two outstanding men on our diving squad this year in Alex Vollelunga and John Collier. I anticipate both of them getting to the NCAA Championships next spring, and on the right day, both of them should be in the top eight in both springboard events.'

Mitchell-Rocha's Outlook for the Women's Diving Team - 'At the conference level we are going to jam this year. At the NCAA level, I'd like to get all three divers there. If all three get into the NCAAs, they will be in the top 16, with the potential of being in the top eight.'

Arizona's Next Action - The Wildcats will take on USC on Friday, Nov. 14, at 2:00 p.m. MST, in UA's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.

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