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Bulldogs look to defend NEC title this week

Bulldogs look to defend NEC title this week

NEC Swimming and Diving Championship Headquarters

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University women's swimming and diving team heads to the Nassau County Aquatics Center this week to defend its title at the 2019 Northeast Conference Swimming and Diving Championships.

Bryant won its first-ever NEC title last season, scoring 793 points over the course of the four-day meet. The score was 55 points better than second-place Wagner.

"Our women are so ready for the NEC Championships," head coach Katie Cameron said. "We are going to attack the championships with confidence after having completed another exciting dual meet season that included great wins for our program. The women have put an unbelievable amount of hard work into this season and are ready to shine."

The Bulldogs will rely on a group that returns nine All-NEC performers from last season and 11 that have earned all-conference honors at one point in their careers. That group includes former NEC Diver of the Year Kelci Abernethy (Chandler, Ariz.) and two-time All-NEC First Teamer Jillian Rice (Trumbull, Conn.).

Abernethy burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2016, winning both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards on her way to becoming the first Bulldog to win NEC Diver of the Year honors. She went on to earn All-NEC Second Team honors in both boards as a sophomore but didn't compete at last year's championships. Now, Abernethy's back and is five-time NEC Diver of the Week.

Bryant's diving unit is more than just one diver, however. Three-time NEC Diving Coach of the Year Chuck LoCurto will head to the championships with three others divers that have earned All-NEC honors in their careers. Ann Burdick (Glenmont, N.Y.) earned All-NEC honors as a freshman and a sophomore, Stephanie Jennings (Elmont, N.Y.) has medaled each of the last two seasons and Gabrielle Ritzer (Sutton, Mass.) earned third team honors as a rookie last season.

In the pool, Rice will look to defend her gold medals in the 100 and 200 free. She enters the championships seeded first in both events and is also seeded second in the 50 free. Alyssa DiFiore (Wethersfield, Conn.), Elin Svärd (Falun, Dalarna, Sweden) and Alaina Scifo (Ipswich, Great Britain) are also back to defend their gold medals from a season ago. DiFiore is seeded in the top five in all three distance free events, Svard is seeded in the top three in the 100 fly and 200 IM and Scifo is seeded second in the 100 and 200 back events.

Alexa Rivera (Boynton Beach, Fla.) has her eyes set on her first individual gold medal as she enters the week seeded first in the 200 IM.

Bryant's first-ever title was also highlighted by a clean sweep of all five relays. The Bulldogs were the first team since 2008 to accomplish the feat and they'll look to duplicate that performance this week. Of the five relays, Bryant returns all but one swimmer that contributed to that clean sweep.

The 2019 NEC Swimming and Diving Championships get underway on Wednesday evening and continues through Saturday night.