Oct. 15, 2010
By Todd Mounce, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Lady Vol swimming and diving team will finally have the chance to compete against someone other than themselves as the team hosts Arkansas on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.
This will be the first time in eight years that the Orange and White opens its regular season against a Southeastern Conference opponent, with the last time being a victory over Kentucky to kick off the 2002 campaign.
Dating back to the first meeting between the two squads in 1992, the Lady Vols have never lost to the Razorbacks. Tennessee holds a perfect 7-0 record against Arkansas, with its most recent triumph coming in 2008 by a score of 197-103.
Lady Vol Head Swimming Coach Mattt Kredich
After weeks of training, the hard work will be put out on display by the returning 21 letterwinners and nine newcomers. While at Rocky Top, Lady Vol head swimming Matt Kredich holds a 4-1 record in season openers.
"Everyday is great, ever bit of the season is great, but the first meet is special because what we are practicing to do is to compete, and be at our very best in competition," Kredich said. "There is nothing like competition in its purest form and a college dual meet is about as close as you can get."
The Big Orange has six All-Americans on the roster with 24 honors between them. Headlining that group is junior Jenny Connolly, who is one of only 16 Lady Vol swimmers to capture double-digit All-America accolades.
Last season Connolly brought her A-A honor total up to 10 by adding five honors. The highlight for the West Lafayette, Ind., native was earning runner-up honors as a member of the 200y medley relay at the NCAA Championships held in her hometown at Purdue's Boilermaker Aquatic Center. The runner-up finish was the highest placement ever by a Lady Vol relay at the national championship meet.
Sophomore Kelsey Floyd joined Connolly on the record-setting 200y MR at NCAAs and showed that she would be a force for years to come. Earning All-America accolades in four relay events last season, Floyd was also named the SEC Freshman of the week four times and earned First Team All-SEC honors.
Though it was no surprise to Kredich, members of the freshmen class were impressive in their collegiate debut at the Orange and White exhibition. Mary Kate McNeilis won the 50y free, 100y back and swam legs on the victorious 200y MR and 400y FR, while Lindsay Gendron added a pair of victories, nabbing the top spot in both the 100y and 200y frees.
"This is a really special group of freshmen," Kredich said. "They're all special, but this group has really devoured everything that we have given them so their pace of learning has been really high and we learned a lot last week. We have high expectations for them. We expect them to compete and for some of them to win."
On the boards, the Lady Vol divers should improve from a year ago under the guidance of Tennessee diving coach Dave Parrington, as the team returns junior All-American Gabrielle Trudeau and will have junior Jodie McGroarty and redshirt freshman Tori Lamp nearing full health. McGroarty, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team two seasons ago. Lamp, who missed all of last year, was the national high school champion in 2009.
"It's always good to get a real competition off the ground and now against an SEC opponent the stakes get considerably higher," Parrington said. "We expect a strong challenge and our divers are certainly geared up and ready to go and I'm excited to see how they perform in a competition after seven weeks of really good training."
Last week at the Orange and White competition, Lamp won both the 1-meter and 3-meter events. Senior Jill Pierce finished second on the 1-meter, while Trudeau was the runner- up on the 3-meter.
"We got some bugs out of the way last week and we didn't use all of dives, so on Saturday the divers will use some dives for the first time in competition," Parrington explained. "We may not be where I expect us to be in a month's time, but I know the group is ready to roll."