On Friday, coach Rick Simpson got his team together, along with the coaching staff, family members, alumni and fans for the annual Swimming and Diving Awards Night. Simpson broadcasted it on Facebook Live, made a beautiful tribute to the senior class and highlighted hope for the future. He also went down the line and gave out a few awards, including men’s and women’s MVP, Academic Excellence award and Wildcat award. The night also brought an amazing highlight reel of the seniors, as well as some highlights from the season.
Simpson started the night off giving a tribute to his team, mentioning that it was one of the few teams that got to finish the season last spring before classes were moved online. He also mentioned some personal records, as well as the fact that the team won the Big East Championship on both the men’s and women’s sides. He talked about how crazy this year has been and mentioned that he wanted to thank the many athletes whose seasons got cut short.
After his opening remarks, Simpson gave way to a touching highlight video that featured not only the seniors but the whole team’s journey. It showed pictures of the teams at different events throughout the year, but its main focus was showing the seniors and the many photos of them while they have been on the team.
The video went through each senior, one by one, showing pictures of them throughout their life and swimming career. It showed the camaraderie and family that had been built within the program.
The seniors on the team were Bridie Dunn, Tarryn Els, Micaela Grassi, Noah Chernick, Justin Cucchi, John Davidson, Jackson Kabas, Andrew Kelly, Alex Klippel, Stephen Krecsmar, Dominic Nazzaro, Christopher Paynter, Michael Perra, Will Ritchie and Joe Swindal.
After the video, Simpson transitioned to the awards. He started off with the Wildcat award and talked about how it is given to a player who strived to make the program better through hard work and dedication. It was chosen by the fellow teammates, and the women’s winner was Andrea Fong. She earned all-Big East honors in 2019 and is a nine-time Big East scorer. She finished third in the 500 in the conference championship.
The men’s winner was Michael Perra, who swept both the one and three meter diving events at the conference championship. He is a two-time CSCAA All-America Team honorable mention and has been named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll every semester of his career. He is a four-time member of the Big East All-Academic Team and a six-time Dean’s List honoree.
Simpson then moved to the Academic Excellence awards, which were given to the students with the highest GPA on the team. The women’s winner was Rayann Jaryszak, who has produced multiple 4.0 semesters at Villanova. She is a three time member of the Big East all-Academic Team and made it on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll all six semesters. She is a five-time Big East champion and a 10-time All-Big East performer.
The men’s winner was Jordan Fetterman. He has also been on the All-Academic Team the past three years and made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll all six semesters. He is a seven-time Big East scorer and has posted career bests at the Big East Championships in the 100 fly and the 200 IM.
Then, it was time for the MVP awards. The women’s award winner was Kelly Montesi, who led the team with an overall season point total of 462.25. Montesi won conference titles in the 200 IM, the 400 IM and the 200 backstroke, in addition to contributing to relay titles in the 200 and 400 yard medley relays, as well as the 400 and 800 yard freestyle relays.
The men’s award winner was Justin Cucchi, who led the team in all scoring categories throughout the season. He set school records in the 200 IM and the 400 IM during the conference meet, and on the last day of the meet, he broke the record for the 200-yard backstroke. Cucchi captured the Big East title in the 400 IM and anchored Villanova’s come-from-behind victory in the men’s 800-yard freestyle relay on the first day of the meet. His overall season point total was a team-best 338 points.
Coach Simpson let all the seniors give their final speeches and words of wisdom. Afterwards, Simpson gave his closing remarks and ended a truly well-done night of awards.