Once Virginia Tech left the conference last year, St. Bonaventure figured to have a cleaner shot at the Atlantic 10 Swimming and Diving Championships they're so good at claiming.
But it's been one of those seasons for the Bonnies, who must stave off a host of challengers in the A-10 championship meet at the Flickinger Aquatic Center starting Thursday and ending Saturday.
Both men's and women's teams were picked as the preseason favorite in the coaches' polls. But the women have suffered horrendous depth problems, with only 10 swimmers and five divers able to compete this weekend.
The men have had their own rotating depth problems, but head coach Sean McNamee hopes to have his team peaking at the right time.
"It's been a long season with injury and illness," McNamee said. "It's not been a horrible season but a calamity of small problems. It's just one of those years. We're still having a successful season and we hope to be in contention at A-10s. It just hasn't been the smoothest of years."
The challengers are primarily Massachusetts and George Washington on both sides.
For the Bona men to have a shot, McNamee said he needs a plethora of first place finishes in individual and relay events.
It starts with junior sprinter Ernest Teo. Undefeated in the 50-meter freestyle, he owns the A-10's second-best time in the 100, fourth-best in the 50. Other key performers will be senior Kyle VanDenBerghe, the 200 breaststroke champion two years ago, and sophomore Borut Poje in the 500 free.
The women will have to climb a mountain to win the team event, but senior Joanna Bubeck is undefeated in distance free events this year and looks to capture her third A-10 title in the 1,650 free.
For the seventh straight year Bona serves as the host for the championships at the Flickinger Center. The Bonnies don't swim there during the year, but it does have the comfortable feeling of home.
"The upperclassmen have had both positive and negative experiences there as far as collecting and not collecting a championship," McNamee said. "It's easy to conjure up those feelings right to the taste buds. It's important that they do relive those memories to make sure they leave with the memories they desire and not the ones they'll despise."
Double sessions run each of the three days, with morning trials at 10:30 a.m. and finals at 6:30 p.m. All-session passes are $15 for adults, $10 for students and only available Thursday morning. Single session passes are $3 for adults, $2 for children with kids under 11 years old free.
It's showdown weekend in women's hockey.
The winner gets to keep playing, advancing to the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference playoffs. The losers can start gearing up to join the softball team.
Niagara sits in the driver's seat in hosting Princeton for two games this weekend, (Friday at the Dwyer, Saturday at the Niagara Falls, Ont., Memorial Auditorium). The Purple Eagles are in the eighth and final playoff spot in the ECAC with 17 points, and the Tigers are in ninth with 14 points.
"Did I want this to come down to a big series? No. Is it exciting? Yes," NU head coach Margot Page said. "It's going to be a battle. They play hard, have some really high-end players and their goaltending is quite strong. It's going to be interesting.
"Pressure is embraced in different ways. Some embrace it very well and play their best hockey. Others have a tough time and tend to not play as well. The last little while, I think we've been feeling the pressure and have been showing some good signs, but you never know. We've never really had this experience. Probably the most pressure we're ever going to have will be this weekend."
Niagara needs the four points now. The Purple Eagles close out the regular season next weekend hosting Dartmouth, the top team in the ECAC and the top-ranked team in the country for the majority of the year.
Princeton does have two games in hand over Niagara, meaning the Purple Eagles could sweep this weekend and still end up on the softball diamond. But with two of Princeton's remaining four games against St. Lawrence and New Hampshire, both ranked in the Top 10, the onus remains on this weekend series.
This week's most embarrassing moment: In the middle of resurfacing the ice at Buffalo State College during the second intermission of the Canisius-American International game Sunday, the zamboni stopped. It ran out of gas.
The arena crew found a gas can and got it running again, but the start of the third period was delayed for about five minutes.