East Carolina’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are optimistic and excited to continue their recent success within the American Athletic Conference.

The women’s team is poised to take another step further in the AAC, with both the team and head coach Rick Kobe confident that this year’s teams have the ability to finish very strong.

“The girls look as strong as ever,” said Kobe. “And It was just a few years ago that they actually went undefeated.”

The women’s team will be led by senior freestyle swimmer Marion Abert, junior backstroke and butterfly swimmer Julie Lajoie and junior breastroke swimmer Vendela Norrman.

The men’s team on the other hand, looks to solidify its stronghold on the conference by capturing its third consecutive AAC championship.

As if the confidence from having two straight conference championships wasn’t enough, senior breastroke swimmer Will Hicks also feels that this team could be better and could even be one of the best ever assembled at ECU.

Leaders amongst the men include senior breastroke and freestyle swimmer Erle Craven, Hicks and freshman freestyle swimmer Grega Popovic. Popovic has emerged greatly, winning the AAC swimmer of the week last week.

Kobe also boasts of a very close group that spends a lot of time together, not only with its rigorous 20 hours per week practices and training, but also with the time and bonding it puts in together outside of the athletic complex. The team participated in a huge scavenger hunt that led to a social at one of the parents’ homes.

“They are very tight, it’s like their own sorority and fraternity,” said Kobe. “We have to do what we can to get closer as a team and do things like that outside of swimming that are fun and brings people together.”

Both Pirate teams have started their season already, having their Purple-Gold intrasquad meet September 30 and their first dual meet against Navy over the weekend. Both teams lost against the Naval Academy, and were out-touched in nine races by less than 1/10 of a second.

The Pirates will be on the road the rest of the semester facing a very difficult schedule, highlighted by a meet at South Carolina on January 27 and 28.

Kobe said his team will get faster as the season progresses and is hopefully swimming its best, late in the season before conference championships.

“The ultimate goal is to perform very well at conference championship,” said Kobe. “Because then if you swim and dive as well as you can, then whatever place you get, you get. And if you’ve got the talent, then usually that’s first place.”

ECU’s next match is Saturday at 1 p.m. as it hosts a tri-meet against Catawba and Campbell and a diving match against Clemson and UNC-Wilmington.

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