Lost in the hoopla of the Desert Vista girls swim team’s state title last season was just how much the boys team accomplished as well.

The Thunder boys finished 6-1, won the Tempe city meet again and finished third in Division I after missing out on the top five the three previous years.

Each squad returns big-time talent and there are some new faces that surely will make an impression, but don’t be surprised if the boys end up having the better encore season in 2014.

“It is our expectations that last year’s attitude and momentum will carry over to the 2014 season,” Thunder coach Shawn O’Connell said. “The potential is there to once again challenge the strongest teams in the state if, and only if, we continue to place a priority in maturing as a team.”

Returning state placers include Dieter Benz (fourth place in 100- and 200-yard freestyle), Josh Vedder (100 backstroke, fifth place) and Miles Dunn (100 breaststroke, 10th place) while Grant Bowers and Tyler Dennis will be counted on as well.

The Thunder girls have the talent and depth to defend their state title if things go well and the younger competitors prove they are ready to perform at a high level.

Desert Vista will be led by returning state placers Ceceli Kowalski (state champ in 200 free, third 500), Maddie Nichols (fourth place in the 100 back and 100 butterfly), Annabella Akeney (fifth 100 free, 10th 200 free) and Noelle Lavigne (eighth in 500 free, eighth in 100 free).

“We’re coming off a tremendous year, finishing undefeated, winning our eighth straight Tempe city championship and winning the school’s first state championship,” O’Connell said. “Our goal is to put ourselves in a position to have the same opportunities. While we have many returners and the ladies are fully aware that it will take the same consistent effort and preparation as last year to achieve our goals.”

Mountain Pointe is in a bit of a transition, but the Pride will still put out quality competitors and be ready to compete in November.

The tandem of Greg Mahon and Lisa Mancuso take over for longtime coach Steve Mancuso, Lisa’s brother.

It should be a smooth transition as Mahon returns to coach his alma mater after a long career coaching at the club level while Mancuso has been with the program since 2002.

The Pride’s boys program will be led by Jordan Nelson (diving), Colin Smith (100 breast), T.J. Rachford (100 fly, 100 back) and Robert Burge (500 free).

The girls side should see McKenna Rafferty (100 free, 100 back), Grace Horvath (100 breast, 200 medley), Sarah Ding (100 fly, 100 breast) and Brenna Halverson (50 free) reach the next level in 2014 after strong showings last year.

“We’re excited for a successful and fun season,” Mancuso said. “We expect great results from our returning swimmers and divers. Additionally, we are looking forward to success amongst the new talent and strength we have in the water. They are working hard and it is fun to watch them improve every day.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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