(UE Athletics) After a record-breaking spring 2021 campaign, the University of Evansville swimming and diving teams will take to the pool for the first time this fall on Saturday, as the Purple Aces will travel to Charleston, Illinois to battle Eastern Illinois in a dual meet. The meet will begin at 1 p.m.
Evansville set three men’s school records and six women’s school records in the pool last season. Overall, the Purple Aces have broken 13 different school records combined in head coach Stuart Wilson’s first two seasons as head coach. The Purple Aces return 32 total letterwinners – 16 men and 16 women –including 11 different record-holders at UE.
“Training has been going very well so far this fall,” said Wilson. “We are working on several different areas that will help the team perform even better this season, and this team has total trust in the training that we are doing.
“The attitude of this team has been incredible. Getting back to training consistently has been a big breath of fresh air, and this team is excited to be able to do things that they couldn’t do last year.”
On the women’s side, junior school record-holders Sage Moore (Lexington, OH/Lexington), Sarah Jahns (Lilburn, GA/Parkview) and Maya Cunningham (Yakima, WA/Eisenhower) anchor the various disciplines for UE. Moore, who earned honorable mention all-Missouri Valley Conference honors a year ago, set the school record in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:17.74) last spring, while also posting the second-fastest 100-yard breaststroke time (1:03.93) in school history.
“Sage is one of the hardest workers on the team,” said Wilson. “She gives everything that she has in the pool, dryland and in the weight room, and she has gained a lot more confidence this past year. She will once again be a leader for us this year.”
Cunningham, meanwhile, rewrote the record book in the 200 butterfly, as the honorable mention all-MVC swimmer broke UE’s school record by over a second with a time of 2:03.19. Jahns, another honorable mention all-Valley swimmer in 2021, meanwhile set school records in both the 1,000 free (10:14.99) and the 200 backstroke (2:00.65), shattering those records by seconds.
“Sarah is so competitive, and she does so much for our program both in the distance events and the backstroke,” said Wilson. “Maya has also been tremendous for us in the butterfly events, and both have been very consistent in training this fall.”
Honorable mention all-MVC relay record-holders Iryna Tsesiul (Minsk, Belarus – sophomore backstroke) and Jessie Steele (Houston, TX – senior freestyler) also return for the Aces. Senior captains Emily Vasquez (Huntsville, AL/St. John Paul II) and Nicolette Wickes (San Antonio, TX/Johnson) will provide leadership and depth in the freestyle and butterfly events. UE will also return four of its divers from a year ago - honorable mention all-MVC senior Maggie Franz (Mundelein, IL/Mundelein), fellow seniors Fae-Siri Keighley (Johannesburg, South Africa) and Sarah Kempf (Greenwood, IN/Center Grove), and sophomore Madison Rollett (Evansville, IN/Reitz).
On the men’s side, junior co-captain Riccardo Di Domenico (Johannesburg, South Africa) returns after breaking the school record in the 100 butterfly (48:49), while also nearly breaking two of the oldest records on file at UE in the 100 (45.03) and 200 (1:38.38) freestyle events. Di Domenico’s freestyle times rank as the second-fastest in UE history, and were within tenths of a second away from records that have stood since 2001 at Evansville.
“As good as Riccardo has been for us, he still has even more room for improvement, which is a great thing to think about as a coach,” said Wilson. “He trains hard in every practice and never lets a good practice go to waste. I expect him to make more noise in the Mid-American Conference this year.”
Sophomore Jackson Caudill (Mount Sterling, KY/Montgomery County) returns after smashing the school record in the 1,000-free by over five seconds with a time of 9:37.82. Senior Oskar Menkhaus (Davidson, N.C./William A. Hough) also is a record-holder for UE, as he set the 500-yard free mark in 2020 with a time of 4:31.60. Sophomore Grant Kay (Ellicott City, MD/Hebron) will help add depth in the mid-distance freestyle events, having posted top 10 times at UE in both the 500 and 1,000-free. In all, UE has established new school records in three of the six freestyle distances in the past two years under Wilson.
“As good as our freestyle group has been, it has gotten even stronger with the freshman class coming in,” said Wilson. “I really believe that we will open some eyes in the conference in the freestyle event with the group that we have this year.
Senior co-captain Zeke Metz (Topeka, KS/Seaman) and junior Max Dehen (Ramsey, MN/Anoka) also own parts of relay school records at UE, and both will help in the IM discipline. Metz and Di Domenico will help lead a talented group of butterfly swimmers, as both senior EE Tan (Selangor, Malaysia) and junior Griffin Hammett (Loganville, GA/Loganville) posted times in UE’s career Top 10 a season ago. Grad student Pierce Lively (Ringgold, GA/Heritage) also owns one of the 10 fastest times in the 100 breast for UE, while junior Sam Leatherwood (Loveland, OH/Milford) posted the seventh-fastest time in the 100 backstroke last season.