Jan. 9, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The 13th-ranked Lady Vol swimming and diving team travels to Bloomington, Ind. to face No. 11 Indiana, No. 19 Michigan and Illinois in a quad meet on Friday and Saturday at Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center.
The three-session meet begins on Friday at 11 a.m. The second session starts Friday night at 5 p.m., and the meet wraps up on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.
The Lady Vols are undefeated in dual meets this season, having defeated the University of the Cumberlands, Louisville, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to start the season 5-0 in dual meet competition. The UT swimmers haven't competed since Nov. 20-22 when they won the Tennessee Swimming Invitational.
In its last time out at the home invitational, the Big Orange were led by sophomore Aleksa Akerfelds, who won three individual events (1650y free, 400y IM and 500y free), as well as junior Alex Barsanti (200y breast), junior Jamie Saffer (100y breast) and freshman Jenny Connolly (100y back), who each captured one individual event at the three-day Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center-hosted meet.
After over a month off from racing, the Lady Vols are anxious to compete.
"We're looking forward to racing again," UT head women's swimming coach Matt Kredich said. "During the first semester we did a lot of general conditioning, and after our November invitational we shifted our practice focus to race pace training and racing skills. We've done some great work in the past eight weeks and this will be our first chance to really fire up those skills under pressure."
Indiana is 3-1 this season and achieved 20 NCAA B cuts in their last meet, the Hoosierland Invite, from Nov. 21-23. Freshman Nikki White led the way with a school record and NCAA A performance of 4:36.61 in the 500y free.
The Wolverines are only 1-5 on the season, but finished third at the Texas A&M Invitational and then won the Eastern Michigan Invitational in early December. UM is paced by junior Margaret Kelly, who has posted the team-best time in seven different events this season and is a four-time All-American.
Illinois brings a 4-0 record into the meet. The Fighting Illini placed third at the Miami (Ohio) Invitational in their last action on Dec. 6. Senior Marissa Clapp posted a trio of top-three performances at the Miami meet, including a win in the 400y IM.
"Michigan and Indiana are very well coached, very powerful teams, while Illinois will have some great athletes vying to win events," Kredich said. "Indiana has great depth, and Michigan has some very versatile and talented athletes. These have been the best two Big Ten teams at NCAA's for the past couple of years, and Indiana is clearly better this year than they've been in a while. If we compete well, we'll be part of some great races. If we don't, we'll be left watching the other teams have some great races. They're not going to wait around for us to get into the meet."
The Lady Vol divers opened 2009 by hosting the Tennessee Diving Invitational from Jan. 3-5. Freshmen Gabbie Trudeau and Jodie McGroarty finished sixth and ninth, respectively, in the 1-meter competition at the meet, while senior Staley McCartney placed 12th on the platform.
McCartney snagged her first career win in the dual meet with Indiana last season, capturing the three-meter with a score of 291.90.
The UT divers will face two of the best divers in the country in Hoosiers Christina Loukas and Brittany Feldman. Loukas competed at the Olympics in the three-meter board this past summer and is a two-time U.S. national champion, while Feldman was named Big Ten Diver of the Year last season and has earned three All-America certificates.
"With all three events so close together, this meet makes for an extremely mentally challenging task for our young squad of divers," UT diving coach Dave Parrington said. "We are also facing arguably one of the nation's toughest diving squads in Indiana. Michigan and Illinois are no slouches either. We have no choice but to stand up and compete hard and well against these teams, and I expect nothing less from our divers.
"No matter the result, the experience gained will continue to benefit us in our preparations for the championship season, which is first and foremost in my mind as we move forward."
Tennessee placed eighth at the 2008 NCAA Championships, just ahead of Michigan and Indiana, who finished ninth and 10th, respectively. The Lady Vols defeated the Hoosiers 172-128 in Knoxville last season, in the programs' only previous meeting. UT is also 1-0 all-time against Illinois and holds a 2-1 edge over Michigan.