Sept. 26, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama Swimming and Diving teams take to the water Saturday at 1 p.m. for their season openers, with the men taking on Delta State and the women facing off against Delta State and Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt in the Alabama Aquatic Center.
"We're ready to get going and compete against someone other than ourselves," Eric McIlquham, now in his sixth season as Alabama's head coach, said. "And on the women's side we get started right off in the SEC. We'll get out there and race and that will give us a good indication of where we are and where we need to go in the next few weeks."
Saturday marks the Tide's earliest regular season start since 1992 when the Tide also opened the season in September against Delta State in Tuscaloosa. Alabama last saw DSU last season in Cleveland, Miss. where the men picked up a 82-55 win and the women won by a 97-41 mark. Vanderbilt, which only fields a women's team, made the trip to Tuscaloosa last season where the Tide came out on top 245-48. The Lady Commodores also were back in February for the Tide-hosted SEC Championships.
"This is our start," McIlquham said. "Every meet is an opportunity to get up and race and to get better and it starts here and will continue on through the end of the season. We're young in that we don't have very many seniors, but the majority of our team is in the sophomore and junior class so we've got experience and we need to use that to our benefit and get off to a good start Saturday and then just keep that rolling along."
Alabama's men, 22nd at the NCAA Championships last season, are headlined by All-Americans Aaron Fleshner and Catalin Cosma. The Tide also has All-American Mark Randall back in the lineup after the junior redshirted last season to train for the Olympics. There are five rookies that should make their crimson and white debut on Saturday led by Joe Ziegler, a member of the United States' junior national team.
The Tide women are led by All-American Agustina de Giovanni who spent part of her summer in Beijing at the Olympic Games. The junior figures among Alabama's all-time top-10 in eight different individual events. There are seven newcomers on the women's side of the slate, with diver Carrie Dragland and swimmers Suzanne Schwee and Lauren Cuervo leading the way.