The Lady Vols swam their way to a successful season.
June 16, 2004
After a 2002-03 campaign during which the squad built a rock-solid foundation for continued program success for the Tennessee Lady Vols, a large incoming class, complimented by a stable corps of upperclassmen, realized much of its potential to sustain the "Ripple Effect" created by previous achievement. With the groundwork already laid for a successful season, Head Coach Dan Colella, Diving Coach Dave Parrington and Assistant Coach Jamie Bloom guided their charges to a higher level of accomplishment during the 2003-04 season.
Tennessee opened its schedule on the road in dominating fashion with a 139-85 taming of SEC rival Kentucky on Oct. 24. Rookie Megan Tomes showed no freshman jitters, as she posted a provisional qualifying time in the 200y freestyle with a 1:50.24 to seize the event title before narrowly missing another provisional in the 500y freestyle with a 4:54.66. Sophomore Abbi Terveer also helped the Big Orange to the convincing win, as she began a stellar outing with a 24.05 clocking in the 50y freestyle before claiming the 100y freestyle crown with a 52.67. Also getting into the event win column were freshmen Misty Cain and Tiffany Clay as well as sophomores Jacque Fessel and Betsy Brockman.
As for the divers, junior Lauryn McCalley led the way with a zone qualifying score of 297.23 to capture the one-meter springboard title as well as posted a second-place 257.78 on the three-meter springboard. Tennessee equaled its overwhelming effort in the relay events. Fessel, Clay, sophomore Tatiana Athayde and Terveer opened up the evening with nearly a three-second conquest of the 400y medley relay after racing to a 3:53.01 in the event.
The Lady Vols' next challenge came on the road in Auburn, Ala., against the two-time defending national champion Tigers. Despite a 194-101 setback, it boasted several quality performances as Tomes posted a pair of provisional qualifying times in the 100y and 200y freestyle events and captured the event title in the 200y IM with a 2:04.57. From the springboards, McCalley claimed the one-meter crown with a 293.39 before taking second in the three-meter dives with a 295.65. Senior Kylee Wells accumulated a 234.37 on the 1m before garnering a 254.47 in the 3m. The relay squads accounted for most of UT's points, as they brought a first, second and third-place finisher.
Following the competitive display versus Auburn, the Orange and White moved on to an immensely-productive winter invitational season. Tennessee opened with a win at the Houston Invitational in Houston, Texas, over Nov. 20-22. During the three-day affair, the Lady Vols seized 18 event titles at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center Natatorium. Overall, the Big Orange claimed 16 swimming crowns and two diving wins. Additionally, Wells put up an NCAA zone qualifying score with a 431.10 in the 3m.
After finding much success in the Lone Star State, the Lady Vols re-wrote the program's record book on Dec. 20 as they won the Orange Bowl Classic (previously known as the Key West Relay Extravaganza) in Key Largo, Fla. The pair of victories marked the first time since the 1990-91 season that the Big Orange had taken more than one invite in a season. The back-to-back fashion in which UT won is also of note as it was the initial time that Tennessee had strung together invite triumphs.
In Key Largo, the orange-clad contingent won the invitational by claiming nine of the 12 event titles. The 50m fly also marked the debut of the first two-sport Lady Vol student-athlete since 1999-2000, when Mandy Bergey competed for the volleyball team in the Fall of 1999 and finished out the competitive season as a pole vaulter on the track & field team in the spring of 2000, as junior Kristin McGrath swam to a 16th-place finish with a 34.55 clocking.
While the swimmers continued training back in Knoxville, UT's divers had an impressive showing in Athens, Ga., kicking off the New Year at the 2004 Georgia Diving Invitational at Gabrielsen Natatorium over Jan. 3-5.
McCalley opened the day successfully by capturing the one-meter preliminary crown with a 285.05, knocking off Auburn's Ashley Rubenstein. Rubenstein returned the favor, however, in the final round as she upended McCalley with a 301.10 to win the event title, while McCalley amassed a 290.65 to claim runner-up status. McCalley countered in the 1m shootout, which is an elimination challenge between the top six divers of the event, outlasting Purdue's Carrie McCambridge in the final round of competition.
Following the invitational meets, the swimming and diving crews met back up in Knoxville for their home opener against Northwestern on Jan. 10. Tennessee proceeded to dominate the Wildcats, 207-144, in a split-session meet at the Student Aquatic Center as the Big Orange captured 14 of the 19 event titles to improve to 2-1 in dual meets. The squads competed under a split-session format to prepare for a similar style of competition at conference and NCAA championships in which swimmers and divers must be ready to perform during both the morning and evening. The morning session also featured meter swims to prepare for a similar style of competition at the national-title meet and Olympic Trials.
In the early diving session, McCalley seized the 3m crown with a 306.15, while Wells took third place with a 239.70 and freshman Brittany Fulmer turned in a fourth-place 201.82. The divers followed with a successful evening program, as McCalley swept the diving titles on the day with a 296.92, while Wells came up just short of a zone qualifier with a second-place 250.72 effort.
In the swim portion of the meet, Tomes led Tennessee once again with six event titles, including four in individual events (100 LCM freestyle, 100 LCM butterfly, 200y freestyle and 200y IM). Tomes narrowly missed adding more provisional times to her coffer with a 58.58 clocking in the 100 LCM free before missing a B-cut time by .04 in the 200y free with a 1:50.87. Additionally, Terveer missed a provisional of her own by .05 with a 24.01 to win the 50y free.
Overall, Tomes accounted for 62 points, which was nearly 30 percent of the team total. That effort was good enough to claim both the SEC Swimmer of the Week and Lady Vol Athlete of the Week awards on Jan. 13.
The Big Orange next hit the road to take on SEC-rival Arkansas in Fayetteville on Jan. 17. Tennessee, however, was without the services of McCalley, as the All-American took second place in the 3m synchronized diving event with her partner Lane Bassham before finishing in sixth place individually from the same height at the 2004 USA World Cup Diving Trials held in Huntersville, N.C., over Jan. 15-18.
The Lady Vols held their own without McCalley, by caging the Razorbacks, 170-130, at the Arkansas Natatorium to improve to 3-1. Overall, Tennessee captured 11 of the 16 event titles. Fessel provided some fireworks during the meet, by posting a provisional qualifier in the 200y back with a 2:01.74 to smoke the rest of the field in the event. Also recording wins during the meet were sophomore Graciela Breece-Rodriguez, Clay, Terveer and Tomes, while both relay squads were triumphant in the 200y medley and 400y free.
Senior Day in Knoxville on Jan. 31 proved to be a good omen for Tennessee, as the Lady Vols pushed third-ranked Florida to the brink before suffering only their second loss of the season by a 129-103 margin. Parrington's divers gave the swimmers a solid foundation to work from, by opening the meet in fine fashion by amassing 11 points for the Big Orange. McCalley posted a season-high 300.97 to capture the 1m springboard title, while Wells turned in a zone qualifier with a fourth-place 257.55 and Fulmer took sixth with a 222.52. Later in the meet, McCalley hit the ninth-best sequence of dives in the 3m in Tennessee history to claim the event title with a season-high 321.52. Wells posted a fourth-place 258.02 in her final dives before a home audience, while Fulmer put together a career-high 213.67 for sixth place.
In a heated battle for the 200y freestyle crown, Tomes secured another event title with a 1:49.45 in the 200y freestyle. The 200y free featured three NCAA provisional qualifiers: UT's Tomes, Florida's Sara McLarty (1:49.53) and Brittany Johnson (1:50.09). However, in the 100y freestyle, Tomes' string of seven straight event triumphs came to an end with a runner-up showing as Florida's Mary Uhle claimed the title with a 51.39. Meanwhile, UT's Fessel turned in a provisional qualifier in a runner-up effort with a 2:00.62 in the 200y back.
After sweeping both diving titles against Florida, McCalley was chosen as the SEC Diver of the Week. The 1m and 3m victories also marked the third time she accomplished that feat during the season for the Lady Vols.
The margin of victory tightened in UT's final meet of the year, as the Lady Vols edged Ohio State, 151.5-147.5, at the Mike Peppe Aquatic Center in Columbus, Ohio, to run their mark to 4-2. The Big Orange captured nine of the 17 titles. The Orange and White also notched a new pool standard in the 200y medley relay with a 1:45.47 clocking, which eclipsed the previous mark of 1:45.56 set by Northwestern in 2000.
Parrington's crew of divers opened up the meet successfully as McCalley captured the one-meter title with a career-high 313.20 mark, which was the fifth-best effort in program history. In the swimming events, Tomes continued her dominance of the freestyle by posting another provisional in the 200y free with a 1:50.35 to claim the crown, while Brockman took runner-up status with a 1:54.71. In the 500y freestyle, Tomes became the 14th-fastest Lady Vol in the event with a first-place 4:54.41. Tomes claimed her second SEC Swimmer of the Week certificate for her performance against the Buckeyes. Overall, she accounted for 40 points, which was 27 percent of the team total against Ohio State.
With the dual-meet season complete, the Lady Vols set their sights on the SEC Championships in Athens, Ga., over Feb. 25-28. With more than two weeks off from competition before SECs, UT seemed ready to compete. The squad opened up during the first-day championship session with Fessel demolishing her own school record in the 100y backstroke with a 54.03 mark to take third place and punch her ticket to the NCAA Championships with an automatic qualifying mark. The orange-clad swimmers then closed out the night with a provisional in the 800y freestyle relay.
Earlier in the evening, McCalley opened up the final session of the day by earning her initial All-SEC certificate with a third-place 290.00 sequence of dives. Tennessee climaxed with an inspired performance in the 800y freestyle relay, as the squad of freshman Elizabeth Christy, Terveer, Fessel and Tomes posted an NCAA provisional qualifier with a seventh-place clocking of 7:24.35.
After a weather-marred day in which preliminaries were eliminated to keep the meet on schedule, Fessel continued her stellar performance on day two of SECs by posting another NCAA automatic qualifying time in the 100y butterfly. Remarkably, she had not even turned in a provisional qualifier in the 100y fly throughout the season. In the event, Fessel swam the second-fastest time in school history to finish with a fourth-place career-best 53.69 and shaved nearly two seconds off her previous best in the event.
The Big Orange opened the day successfully with Cain claiming two points for Tennessee with a 15th-place, career-low mark of 4:57.21 in the 500y freestyle. To close out the individual swimming events of the evening, Clay picked up nine points for the Lady Vols with a ninth-place 1:04.57 effort in the 100y breaststroke, while McGrath just missed recording points for the team with a 17th-place 1:09.49. During the relay portion of the evening, the quartet of Terveer, senior Taryn Ternent, freshman Meghan Keefer and Tomes swam to an eighth-place season-best of 3:26.16 in the 400y freestyle relay to gain 22 points for the Big Orange. McCalley then finished the day for Parrington's squad with a fifth-place effort in the three-meter final with a 480.45 to add 14 points to Tennessee's ledger.
During the third day of competition at the SEC Championship, Fessel continued an incredible week by setting a new program record in the 200y backstroke and garnering her third NCAA automatic qualifying time. Additionally, the orange-clads advanced seven swimmers into eight spots in the night's championship session.
Starting off the session on a successful note, Breece-Rodriguez and freshman Julia Lutz guaranteed the squad points in the 200y fly as both advanced to the finals session in the event. Breece-Rodriguez took 11th place with a 2:03.89, while Lutz claimed 16th place with a career-best 2:08.76 clocking. Cain posted an NCAA provisional qualifier in the 200y breast with a career-best 2:16.82 to claim 10th place and advance to the finals, while Brockman joined her teammate in the finals with a 16th-place 2:21.70. Fessel wrapped up the preliminary round for the Big Orange by shattering former Lady Vol Pam Hanson's 200y back record of 1:57.00, which was set at the 2001 NCAA Championships, charting a 1:55.53 to finish third with an NCAA automatic qualifier. Tennessee set a program record in the 200y medley relay and narrowly missed another standard in the 200y freestyle relay. Additionally, the team clocked provisional times in each event and earned All-SEC status for the 200y medley relay group.
The relay squad opened the championship session in fabulous fashion, as the quartet of Fessel, Clay, Tomes and Ternent set a school record in the 200y medley relay with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 1:41.08 to take third and claim All-SEC accolades. The performance also marked the initial time the Big Orange had medaled in a relay since the 2001 SEC Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
In the individual event opener, Breece-Rodriguez took 10th place in the 200y butterfly to claim seven points with a 2:03.51 clocking, while Lutz ended up in 15th place with a career-best 2:07.71 to pick up two points for the Big Orange. In the 200y freestyle, Tomes followed up the relay performance with a career-low 1:49.02 effort to improve her NCAA provisional time and finish in 12th place to add five points for Tennessee.
In the 200y breaststroke consolation final, Clay finished in 11th place with a 2:16.83 clocking for six points, while Brockman ended up in 15th place with a 2:21.83 to bring in two points. Fessel piled up another 14 points for the Lady Vols in the 200y backstroke with a fifth-place 1:56.23, while Breece-Rodriguez tallied three points for a 14th-place 2:02.97 effort and freshman Ashley Yeager took 15th place with a career-low 2:03.17 for two points.
The Lady Vols closed out the night with a fifth-place effort in the 200y freestyle relay as the group of Terveer, Ternent, Fessel and Tomes posted a provisional qualifying time of 1:32.58, which was just .11 off the Tennessee record set at the 1992 SEC Championships.
UT snared two more provisional qualifying times during the final preliminary round. Additionally, the team advanced Tomes to the 200y IM final. In the preliminary heat opener, Tomes posted an NCAA provisional qualifying time and advanced to the finals with a 13th-place 2:02.49 clocking in the 200y IM. In the 100y freestyle, Terveer turned in her own provisional qualifier with a 19th-place career-low of 51.02, while Ternent nearly joined her with a 22nd-place 51.56.
After charting a bevy of NCAA qualifying times and setting four program standards throughout the four-day long 2004 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships at the Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, Ga., Colella and Parrington's swimming and diving squad eked out a fourth-place finish by the slimmest of margins with a total of 264 points, which was just one point ahead of fifth-place South Carolina's 263-point tally. Overall, Auburn took the team championship with a total of 846 points. Cain finished in the points and blasted more than 20 seconds off her previous career-best in the 1650y freestyle with a 15th-place 17:01.26 effort. In the 200y IM consolation final, Tomes tallied four points for Tennessee with a 13th-place 2:02.55 clocking to close out UT's scoring in individual events.
In the final race of the meet, the 400y medley relay quartet of Tomes, Clay, Fessel and Terveer overcame a seemingly insurmountable deficit to South Carolina to claim a fourth-place team finish, as the orange-clads seized fourth place in the event with a school-record 3:42.61 clocking. Unfortunately for USC, the Gamecocks were disqualified and opened the door for the Lady Vols. As for the new standard, it replaced a six-year-old mark set in the 1998 SEC Tournament.
With the most-successful SEC Championships since a fourth-place finish in 2000 in the books, the Lady Vols now eyed their prospects for the upcoming NCAA Championships in College Station, Texas. For the UT divers, all NCAA hopes rested on their performances during the Zone B Diving Championships in Athens, Ga., over March 12-14. At the pressure-packed zone meet, Tennessee punched one ticket to the NCAA Championships in the 3m springboard competition, as McCalley captured the event title with a 530.05 run of dives that not only added a championship trophy to her collection but also earned her a berth at NCAAs. Wells then closed out her Lady Vol career by finishing in ninth place on the platform with a 355.20 string of dives. The performance was not enough to join McCalley, who earlier claimed the three-meter title and qualified for both the one-meter and three-meter events at NCAAs.
With the Big Orange's NCAA hopes resting in the hands of five individuals, the quintet headed to the Student Recreation Center Natatorium at Texas A&M over March 18-20. Over the course of the season, Tennessee qualified the 200m and 400m medley relay squads, while Fessel was entered in the 100m fly, 100m back and 200m back. Additionally, Tomes made the cut for the 200m IM, 200m free and 100m back, while Ternent competed in the 50m free and Clay in the 200m breast. McCalley did battle on the boards for the Big Orange in both the 1m and 3m events.
The team captured five points during the initial day of competition, as McCalley started the event on a high note by claiming her fourth All-America certificate in the 1m springboard competition with a 12th-place 267.60 string of dives. Meanwhile, Fessel posted a 14th-place 1:00.72 in the 100m backstroke to move on to Friday's finals.
The Big Orange opened the second day of competition with a heart-breaking 17th-place 1:54.04 to finish just outside of the 200m medley relay consolation final by .06 seconds, as the quartet of Fessel, Clay, Tomes and Ternent completed its NCAA Championship relay efforts.
In the 100m butterfly, Fessel continued the run of close calls for Tennessee, as the All-American finished .40 outside of the points with a 1:00.47 to wind up in 17th place for the Lady Vols. In the 100m back, Fessel broke Tennessee's final skid with a 14th-place 1:00.72 to become the first orange-clad swimmer to earn All-America status in two consecutive seasons since Sarah Nichols strung together four straight meets from 1996-99.
McCalley advanced to the three-meter springboard final and claimed her fifth All-America certificate with an eighth-place 497.05 string of dives. Her All-America haul of five certificates also moved her past former Lady Vols Jane Anthony and Jaime Sanger into third for the most-honored orange-clad divers in the program's NCAA meet history. She now trails only former national champions Tracy Bonner and Kathy Pesek's collection of 10 certificates apiece. Additionally, McCalley became the first Lady Vol to achieve All-America status in three consecutive NCAA Championships since Pesek's four-year run from 1996-99.
In the Big Orange's swimming portion of Saturday's final session, Fessel claimed one point for UT with a 16th-place 1:01.27 clocking. Fessel locked down her third All-America certificate by moving on to the consolation final of the 200m backstroke with a 2:11.17 to qualify as the 14th-best swimmer in the event.
In the championship portion of the day, Fessel wound up in 13th place in the 200m backstroke to gain Tennessee four points with a 2:10.79 clocking in the last final session of the meet. Tennessee finished in 28th place with 23 points, while Auburn ascended to the three-time defending national champion echelon with its third consecutive title.
Overall, Tennessee nabbed four All-America certificates with Fessel earning a pair in the 100m back and 200m back, while McCalley claimed two herself with a sixth-place effort in the 3m and a 12th-place performance in the 1m event.
While Tennessee entered the year determined to ride the "Ripple Effect" created by back-to-back impressive recruiting hauls, the Lady Vols are now able to reminisce about a highly-successful 2003-04 season that featured four school records and an improvement at the SEC Championship meet.