Complete Results | Photo GalleryKNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The team total was in favor of the Lady Vols after all but two events in a close meeting with No. 3 Florida, in which the score was never more than 15 points in either direction. Though it came down to the last event, Tennessee couldn’t quite hold on and dropped a 156-144 decision to the Gators. The Big Orange will end its regular season at 5-3. The three losses, however, come at the hands of the top-three teams in the nation. This meet is the second in as many weeks, in which UT almost knocked off a higher-ranking opponent.
“I know it is frustrating for the team to come that close and not win,” head swimming coach Matt Kredich said. “But that was a really hard-fought college dual meets. One of the best I’ve seen.”
The Lady Vols started the evening with an impressive win in the 200y medley relay. The foursome of freshman Tricia Weaner, sophomore Michele King, senior Christine Magnuson and junior Carly Mathes posted an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 1:41.90 to claim the first 11 points for UT.
In the 1000y free, Aleksa Akerfelds’ time of 9:49.13 gave the freshman her fifth win in the event this year. She was over four seconds ahead of Florida’s Laurabeth Guenther who won the 400m and 1500m events versus Auburn on Jan. 26.
In her last met in the Student Aquatic Center, Magnuson took top honors in the 200y free. Her time of 1:45.92 is an NCAA automatic qualifying cut and her fastest posting of the season. Junior Brittany Nauta was fourth in 1:51.94.
The Gators got their first win of the night in the 100y back. Florida swimmers took the first three spots, while Weaner scored points for the Big Orange in fourth (56.79).Senior Danyelle Vincent and junior Maria Jugan came in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Tennessee dominated the competition in the 100y breast by occupying the first through fourth spots. King won the event for the fourth time this season in an NCAA “B” time of 1:02.94. Sophomore Jamie Saffer was second (1:04.06), freshman Martina Moravcikova was third (1:04.54) and sophomore Bryttany Curran placed fourth (1:04.96).
Mathes, from Kettering, Ohio, led the UT contingents in the 200y fly by placing fourth in 2:03.92. Freshman Morgan Farrell also contributed to the UT cause with a fifth-place finish (2:05.05). With the win, the Gators pulled ahead briefly by four points. Magnuson put Tennessee back on the top of the leader board with a victory in the 50y free. The 16-time All-American touched the wall in 22.98 for her second win of the night. Juniors Katie Gehring (23.95) and Ashley Quinn (24.13) came in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Senior divers Lauren LeRoy and Vicky Linnell added to UT’s lead by ranking first and second from the one-meter board. LeRoy’s score of 293.92 and Linnell’s 276.75 are both zone qualifying marks.
“I was really pleased with the way we competed in the one-meter event,” head diving coach Dave Parrington said. “It was a real team effort. Lauren didn’t get off to a great beginning, but she came back to win it. Vicky also competed hard and did very well.”
In the 100y free, King picked up her second win of the night with an NCAA provisional time of 50.44. Nauta added two more points to Tennessee’s total by touching the wall fourth in 51.81.
Florida came within two points after the 200y back, as the Gators took three of the top-five finishes. Weaner’s NCAA “B” cut, 1:59.31, put the Gettysburg, Pa., native in the runner-up spot. Her classmate, Farrell, came in fifth in 2:06.90.
“I think Tricia was a little disappointed with her 100y back swim,” Kredich said. “She came back later in the meet and had a great 200y back event.”
Saffer led for the majority of the 200y breast race and stopped the clock just ahead of teammate Martina Moravcikova for first place. The Roswell, Ga., product demolished her previous personal best time and grabbed an NCAA provisional cut with her 2:17.90 readout. Saffer will go in the record books as the 10th-top performer in school history. Moravcikova’s 2:18.39 time earned her runner-up honors. Curran added points for UT in fifth (2:20.34).
“Jamie Saffer’s 200y breaststroke may have been the swim of the meet,” Kredich said. “That is an event she has struggled with. She struggled with her confidence a lot. She swam it like a pro and kept us in the meet.”
Akerfelds joined Magnuson and King in the two-win club with a victory in the 500y free. Akerfelds, from Bronxville, N.Y., moved up from 11th to ninth on the all-time Lady Vol list with a career-best 4:50.63 mark. Mathes was merely one-tenth of a second from third, as she finished fourth with a time of 4:55.75.
“I thought Aleksa was phenomenal,” Kredich said. “She was pushed really hard and responded beautifully. I thought her performance in the 500y free was incredible.”
Magnuson gave the Lady Vols their largest lead of the evening by claiming top honors in the 100y fly. The Tinley Park, Ill., product’s time of 53.12 is her second NCAA automatic qualifying cut in the event and is the sixth-fastest time in school history. Junior Betsy Lange scored her initial points of the meet with a fifth-place and season-best 56.31.
Florida came within 10 points after UF divers took the No. 1 and No. 3 spots from the three-meter board. LeRoy and Linnell still earned points for Tennessee by placing second (273.68) and fourth (252.75), respectively.
“The pressure on the divers this evening was more than I had felt all year,” Parrington said. “When you have two nationally-ranked teams in a very close meet, all eyes are on the divers. We felt that pressure as coaches and as judges.
“We didn’t necessarily dive how I expected from three meters, but that is what pressure can do to you. That is how we get ready for the big meets like the SEC and NCAA Championships.”
The Gators grabbed their fourth top finish of the evening in the 200y individual medley, despite a personal-best performance from King. The York, Pa., product touched the wall in 2:03.39, which makes her the 15th-fastest Lady Vol of all-time in the event. It is also an NCAA provisional cut and brought her a third-place finish. Just behind her was Mathes (2:03.56), also with an NCAA “B” cut.
With one event left, the 400y free relay, the score was 142-141 in favor of the Lady Vols. Florida’s “A” team took top honors in 3:24.00, while its “B” team placed second. Tennessee’s tandem of senior Laura Fehrman, Farrell, Weaner and Nauta stopped the clock with a third-place 3:25.80 readout.
In addition to an exciting meet, the evening was made special by the six Lady Vol seniors who were recognized in a presentation preceding the contest. Brooke Boncher, Fehrman, LeRoy, Linnell, Magnuson and Vincent were thanked for their achievements during their time on Rocky Top. This meet is also the last scheduled Lady Vol event in the Student Aquatic Center, which has been the home of UT swimming and diving programs for over 40 years.
“Our seniors are our leaders,” Kredich said. “We didn’t designate captains, so our seniors are our captains. Everyone on the team wanted to be at their best for the seniors. Before the meet, we talked about what the seniors give to this team and what we could give back. I think you could see that in the way we cheered and competed.”
Tennessee will face Florida again when the two meet in the Southeastern Conference Championships, Feb. 20-23, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.