Virginia begins to defend title

Unbeaten No. 11 women

The No. 11 Virginia women's swimming and diving team can accurately be called a dynasty. Winning eight conference championships, including the last four in a row, during a 14-year span, has set a powerful precedent for future teams to strive to match.

This week, the 2011-12 Cavaliers (8-0, 4-0 ACC) have their long-awaited chance to win a fifth straight conference title as they travel to Blacksburg for the ACC Championships.

"You don't want to get overconfident and get complacent, but it's good to have momentum and be excited and looking forward to racing," said sophomore Caroline Kenney, a key contributor in the distance freestyle events.

As defending champions, the Cavaliers will have a target on their backs from the pair of relay races which kick off the meet today until the 400 freestyle relay, which wraps up the meet Saturday evening. Returning swimmers from last year's squad know the pressure of coming into the meet as one of the favorites and are encouraging their teammates to embrace the added challenge.

"Of course there's always pressure, but honestly, I'm glad that there's a challenge ahead of us," said senior Erika Stewart, a finalist in three events last year. "People [outside of the program] wouldn't hate to see someone else win, but we don't want to let that happen."

As has been the case all season, Virginia will rely on some of its youngest swimmers to produce clutch performances when called upon. Freshmen Alison Haulsee and Ellen Williamson have been particularly valuable additions to replenish the talent pool following the graduation of the first Cavalier class to win four conference championships.

"Our first-year women who have been outstanding all year need to remain outstanding," coach Mark Bernardino said. "They've really exceeded all expectations to this point in

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