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Virginia swim squads come home, face 'Cats

The Virginia men's and women's swimming and diving teams established themselves as the force to be reckoned with in the ACC by sweeping North Carolina at Chapel Hill last Sunday. Now, they'll try to keep that momentum in a home meet against Villanova, tomorrow at 1 p.m.

"It was a critical meet for us," Cav Coach Mark Bernardino said.

The Virginia women eked by the Tar Heels 158-142 to remain undefeated.

Bernardino attributed the victory to "our stellar athletes [getting] the better of their stellar athletes."

While the Cav men defeated Carolina by a more comfortable 176-124 margin, the win was closer than the score suggests.

According to Bernardino, "the difference in the meet was [Virginia's] mental toughness to pull out all the close races."

The sweep of the nationally ranked Tar Heels lifted both the men's and women's teams one spot in the CSCAA poll. With a record of 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the ACC, the women are now ranked seventh in the nation, the highest rank in the program's history. Meanwhile the men stand ninth in the nation with an overall record of 5-1, 3-1 ACC, putting them one place shy of their program-best rank of No. 8 - achieved earlier this season before their only loss to Clemson.

But Bernardino said he pays little attention to the rankings, and instead focuses on the greater task at hand: the season-ending tournaments.

I give "zero attention to that nonsense," he said. "What's important in our performance at the ACCs and Nationals."

Tomorrow's home meet against Villanova will serve as preparation for those all-important tourneys. The Villanova women are ranked 25th while the men are unranked.

The meet against the underdog Wildcats also gives Virginia an opportunity to see which events swimmers will compete in during the home stretch of the season.

"I look at this meet as an opportunity to look at swimmers in their third events that they will compete in - in the ACCs," Bernardino said.

It also will give freshmen and sophomores on Virginia's deep team a chance to compete.

Villanova Coach Ed Bartsch also recognizes the overpowering talent of the Cavaliers, and said he is approaching the meet as "a great opportunity for us to get some experience against top competition."

Diver "Brian Mulligan is our only chance on paper to win any event," Bartsch said.

However, he said he believes the women's sprints and men's 200 fly could be close.

"We hope to make some breakthrough swims against some very talented athletes," he added.

The Cavs faced the Wildcats earlier this season at the Cavalier Invitational Dec. 3-5. In the meet, which included teams from Harvard, West Virginia and Central Connecticut, the Virginia women took first place with the Villanova women placing third, and the Virginia men fell second to Harvard while the Villanova men finished fifth.

Bernardino said he has challenged his team to prove their "consistency and toughness" this weekend. They must "be careful not to let down after being very emotionally high for UNC," he said.