BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo women's swimming and diving team begins its postseason quest with the Mid-American Conference Championships as the Bulls embark on the Ocasek Natatorium in Akron, OH. The three-day meet will be Thursday, February 23 through Saturday, February 25 with preliminary heats at 11:00 am and finals at 7:00 pm each day.
The Bulls finished last season's championship meet, held in Athens, OH, in fifth place among the eight MAC women's squads. UB set eight school records at the meet, including three new relay marks and are poised to make a run at this year's meet after the team finished the 2012 dual meet season 7-2 overall (2-2 MAC). The Bulls have won six straight dual meets this season and their only two losses were to the top two finishers at last season's MAC meet, Ohio and Toledo, early in the season.
Head coach Andy Bashor feels confident that his team has the momentum for the three-day meet. "We are excited that the MAC Championships are here," said Bashor. "The women have been preparing all season for this moment and it is such a great feeling to get started. It's the time to celebrate the end of the season and we intend to do it with great performances in the pool and on the boards."
Akron's Ocasek Natatorium hosted the Zippy Invitational in December with the Bulls finishing third, trailing only Ohio and Toledo in the overall standings. Including host Akron, four MAC teams participated in the 14-team meet.
Several Bulls set their fastest times of the season in the Akron pool and should have no trouble eclipsing those marks against the conference's elite swimmers. UB relayers set the season's fastest times in the 400-yard medley relay and all three freestyle relays at the Zippy meet in December. The Bulls' 200-yard freestyle relay time of 1:32.94 from the December meet remains the fastest in the league. The foursome from the 200-yard freestyle relay (Marissa Murphy, Brittney Kuras, Taylor Steffl and Mallory Morrell) should also figure prominently for the Bulls in relay and individual races.
Murphy set the MAC's fastest time in the 200-yard individual medley in the Zippy meet in 2:03.37. She also ranks sixth in the 100-yard butterfly in 55.77, a mark she also set in the Zippy meet.
Kuras is among the top 10 MAC swimmers in five events this season. She stands second in the 100-yard freestyle (50.40), third in the 200-yard freestyle (1:49.97) and fourth in the league in the 200-yard individual medley (2:04.97) as UB has three of the five fastest times in the medley.
Steffl broke the 100-yard butterfly record that had stood since 2003 with a 55.11 clocking at the Zippy meet. The time still ranks third-fastest this season.
Morrell won the 50-yard freestyle at the Akron meet in 23.29, setting a season-best mark that stood through the dual meet season and is the second-fastest time in the MAC this season as Miami's Bekka Westrick set a B cut mark of 22.77 at the Miami Invitational the same weekend. Morrell is also fourth in the 100-yard freestyle at 51.32 set at the Zippy meet.
Brynn Marecki reached the championship final of both breaststroke races at last season's MAC meet finishing fifth in the 100-yard race and eighth in the 200-yard distance and was named to the Collegeswimming.com Mid-Major All-American team. This season, she attained a B cut of 1:02.89 in the 100-yard breaststroke in Akron for the second-fastest time in the event this season. Her 2:05.48 in the 200-yard individual medley from the Zippy Invitational is fifth in the league and third on the team behind Murphy and Kuras. Marecki also ranks seventh in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:20.60)
Alie Schirmers ranks fourth in the MAC in both the 200-yard breaststroke (2:19.65) and the 400-yard individual medley (4:29.12), setting both marks in home waters this season. The senior won the MAC's consolation final of last season's 400-yard individual medley and looks to reach the championship race this season.
On the diving boards, freshman Rachel Eckert has improved in January and February to currently rank fifth on three-meter board (314.03) and sixth on the one-meter board (291.38 points). Both Eckert and Ava Giachino have qualified for this season's Zone Championships to be held at UB's Alumni Arena in March.
UB has finished fifth at the MAC Championships three times in the last four seasons, the highest the Bulls have placed since joining the league in 1998.