Courtesy: Florida Athletics
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 8 University of Florida women’s swimming and diving team will travel to Knoxville, Tenn. for their regular season finale against the No. 4 Lady Vols on Saturday, Feb. 1 in a battle of undefeated squads.
The Gators have a chance to become the first team since 1995-96 to finish a season with an undefeated dual record and will head into Saturday coming off a 161-137 Senior Day win over No. 14 Auburn on Jan. 25.
During the meet, UF would set 12 new season-best times and three new personal-bests. Individually, Florida was led by Sherridon Dressel and Vanessa Pearl, who each earned three individual event wins.
The Gators got a boost on the diving board as Brooke Madden swept the 1-meter and 3-meter in her first dual action of the season. Ashley McCool also added a runner-up bid on the 1-meter, while Abigail Howell posted a new career-best on the 3-meter of 301.35.
For their efforts, Dressel and Madden earned conference-wide recognition, taking home the Swimmer of the Week and Diver of the Week, respectively.
To this point of the season, Florida has posted 22 top-10 times in the SEC, with half of those sitting as a top-five mark.
Florida and Tennessee have been longtime competitors, facing off 35 times prior to this year’s meeting.
Overall, the Gators hold a 31-4 advantage of the Lady Vols, including winning last year’s dual by a final tally of 173-127.
UF won the first 27 matchups between the two programs, with Tennessee claiming their first win in the series during the 2011-12 season with a final score of 178-120.
Tennessee picked up two straight wins in 2016-17 & 2017-18 (last time in Knoxville), outscoring the Gators 335-265 in those contests prior to Florida’s win last year.
Looking at the Lady Vols
Just like the Gators, the Lady Vols head into their final dual of the season with an undefeated record, compiling an overall mark of 7-0 and a conference record of 3-0.
The team’s seven victories have come against North Carolina Wilmington, South Carolina, Virginia, Louisville, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Georgia.
In their last win, the Lady Vols outscored the host Georgia by a final tally of 199-101, claiming just their fourth victory ever in Athens.
Tennessee has been led this season by senior freestyler Erika Brown. To this point of the season, she leads the SEC in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free and 100 fly, notching A-cut’s in all every respective event.
Her contributions have been awarded with a pair of SEC Women’s Swimmer of the Week accolades on Oct. 29 and Nov. 26.
Teammate Meghan Small also earned SEC Swimmer of the week accolades on Oct. 22, and currently leads the SEC in the 50 back while also posting the second-fastest 200 and 400 IM times.
The Lady Vols also have two of the top relay teams in the conference, posting the best combined time in the 200 and 400 free.
Amanda Nunan and Tess Cieplucha have conference-leading times in their respective events.
Cieplucha has the top swim in the 400 IM (4:03.06), while Nunan claimed the new fastest 1,000 free swim on Saturday, Jan. 25.
Head coach Jeff Poppell– “We’re expecting a hard-fought dual meet against Tennessee on their Senior Day in Knoxville. It will be a great test for our team and should benefit us greatly as we continue to prepare for next month’s SEC Championships.”
Head diving coach Bryan Gillooly– “Tennessee is a great way for us to finish off the dual meet season and make some final adjustments heading into postseason. Their facility is similar in a lot of ways to Auburn, Georgia, and IUPIU, so it is a good opportunity for us to get comfortable in that setting. Obviously, the intensity won’t be the same so I will be looking to create some of that from within. The team competitions are always very close so I think diving will play a big role in the final tally. All of the divers have taken a lot of pride in the overall team success in these head-to-head matchups and we would love to close out the season with another W.”
The Gators will then enter championship season, beginning with the SEC Championships on Feb. 18-22 hosted by Auburn. Last season, the team finished in second-place, its best conference championship finish since 2011.
Next up on the docket will be the NCAA Diving Zones on March 9-11.
The team will then come back together for the 2020 NCAA Championships on March 18-21 in Athens, Ga.