by Tyler Roaix
The Central Connecticut State University swimming and diving team, winners of the past three Northeastern Conference championships, is getting ready for yet another title run as they open up the 2017-18 season.
The Blue Devils received seven of the eight first-place votes in the coaches’ preseason poll. This comes as no surprise as Central has dominated the conference over the past three years.
Bryant, last year’s runner-up, received the other first-place vote.
Central is lead by head coach Bill Ball, who has been named the league’s Coach of the Year five times and has guided the Central program to five conference titles since coming to New Britain in 2003.
The Blue Devils also have plenty of heavy hitters coming back, hoping to lead the team to yet another conference championship.
Senior Maddy Garber was named the Most Outstanding Swimmer at last season’s NEC Championships after winning gold in the 100 & 200 breaststroke. Not only did she win gold, but she set school and NEC records in the events last year. Garber, a five-time NEC individual champion, also competed at the NCAA Championships in June. She placed in the top-50 in the 50 and 100 breaststroke events at the NCAA Championships. Garber will be a major part of a potential fourth consecutive title run for the Blue Devils.
Senior Annemarie Durham is back on the diving side for CCSU after being named the NEC Outstanding Diver. Durham placed eighth in the one- and three-meter dive events at the 2015 NEC Championships.
Sophomore Alexis Fredricks is a rising star for this Blue Devils team. She won the NEC Rookie of the Year and took medals in three individual events at the championships, most notably a second-place finish in the 200 backstroke.
The Blue Devils have many high-profile events on their schedule this year.
They’ll be traveling to Newark, New Jersey to take on Rutgers University in the Frank Elm Invitational Nov. 17-19. Following that, they travel to Ohio State just a week and a half later to compete in the USA Winter Nationals Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.
Central will fly to Florida to face Florida International University, last year’s Conference USA champions,. They will swim against FIU on Jan. 11. FIU finished 32nd in the NCAA Division I Championships last season.
The Blue Devils began the 2017 season with their annual Alumni Meet on Friday, Oct. 6. They open up competitive play this Friday, Oct. 13 when they take on St. Bonaventure and Sacred Heart at home at 5 p.m. That event will continue on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 11 a.m.
Central will be vying for a top spot all year long to try to defend their title. The 2018 NEC Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships will be held from Feb. 21-24 at Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, NY.