Cavalier women stay undefeated
The last regular season meet of the 2011-2012 campaign is in the books, and the Virginia men's and women's swimming and diving teams look as strong as they have all year. The No. 11 women (8-0, 4-0 ACC) put the finishing touches on an unblemished dual meet record with a 169-111 win against North Carolina State while the No. 15 men (5-3, 3-1 ACC) reasserted their standing as one of the favorites in the upcoming ACC Championships with a 170-123 victory against the Wolfpack.
Since losing to North Carolina two weeks ago, the Cavalier men have rebounded with back-to-back wins at home. By defeating No. 23 NC State (9-2, 6-2 ACC), Virginia proved it belongs with the Wolfpack, as well as fellow ACC school North Carolina, in the top 25. A loss would have concerned the team as they move toward the Feb. 22-25 conference championship meet, coach Mark Bernardino said. The Cavaliers, however, led from the start and at times took total control of the meet.
"I think it was a very solid performance for both teams," Bernardino said. "I liked our energy [and] the aggressive way we raced today. I thought we took our races out hard. We settled into a real strong pace and held pace well, so this was a very good way to head into the championship portion of the season."
The day began with the 3-meter diving competition, in which NC State captured the nine points which go to first-place winners in both the men's and women's showdowns. Junior Hudson Rains later followed up his 3-meter victory with another win in the 1-meter competition.
The first swimming event invigorated an overflowing crowd at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. The Wolfpack women (8-5, 3-5 ACC) pushed Virginia to the brink of defeat in the 200 medley relay when they closed down a small gap at the beginning of the freestyle leg, but Virginia's sophomore anchor Emily Lloyd surged to outlast junior Miffy Henley and secure the win.
With the crowd already behind them, the Cavalier men nearly seized the early momentum. After the Wolfpack pulled even and then took the lead during the butterfly leg of the men's medley relay, however, junior anchor Tom Barrett faltered in his comeback bid. The noise level reached a deafening climax as sophomore Jonathan Boffa out-touched Barrett by 0.16 seconds.
In the subsequent events, the Virginia squads came back with a string of overpowering victories and grabbed a lead they never relinquished. With only one NC State swimmer entered in each of the 1000 freestyle races, the Cavaliers easily swept both, led by sophomores Rachel Naurath and Jan Daniec. Naurath even lapped NC State freshman Shelby Hoyt at the 675-yard mark.
"The difference in the meet was team depth," Bernardino said. "I don't even know how many races we won, but it couldn't have been many more than them [in the men's races] in the course of the meet. The team depth is what mattered."
Seniors Lauren Perdue and Peter Geissinger followed up with victories in the 200 freestyle before sophomores Charlotte Clarke and Parker Camp outpaced the competition in the 100 backstroke.
"I worked out my splits with Mark, and I did almost exactly what I said," Geissinger said. "I was really happy to be able to take it out that fast and just hold on."
After adding steadily to their leads, the Cavalier squads entered the second diving break with insurmountable leads of 148-109 for the men and 161-73 for the women. For good measure, Virginia swept the penultimate event, the 200 individual medley, immediately after the swimming events resumed.
Sophomore Hillary Petersen beat the women's field before sophomore Taylor Grey and junior Nick Montes de Oca matched each other stroke for stroke to tie for first in the men's race. Each finished with an identical time of 1 minute 51.80 seconds.
Saturday's meet at the Aquatic and Fitness Center also served as a Senior Day celebration to honor the seven Cavaliers competing in the final home meet of their careers. The team recognized three female swimmers - Flynn, Meredith Perdue and Erika Stewart - as well as Briggy Imbriglia, Geissinger, David Wren and David Karasek on the men's squad.
"The way the team stepped up and made sure that the fourth-years ended on a 'W' here at U.Va. means a lot to me so I'm really grateful for the rest of my team," Geissinger said.
The Cavaliers will now prepare for the ACC Championships with their ultimate annual goal in mind.
"Definitely winning ACCs is a big highlight [in my career]," Flynn said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to do it again"