In the shadow of the first CSCAA poll for the 2015-16 just released today, as well as the first edition of the SwimSwam Power Rankings for the season, the University of Louisville Cardinal men came into the battle against the University of Tennessee Volunteers as a slight underdog. With powerful weapons such as senior Sean Lehane and sophomore Peter John Stevens, Tennessee found itself ranked in the 11th spot in both polls, while Louisville holds the 14th spot in both. But, the Louisville men did what they had to do to keep it close, so much so that the final event of the men’s 400 freestyle relay brought this nail-biter to a tie at 150 points apiece when all was said and done.
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As a foreshadowing to how close the dual would indeed be, the Tennessee men claimed the very first event of the day, but just by less than half of a second. The foursome of Sean Lehane, Peter John Stevens, Ryan Coetzee and Kyle Decoursey combined to clock a swift 1:28.63 in the men’s 200 medley relay, enough to hold off a charging Cardinal squad of Grigory Tarasevich, Carlos Claverie, Josh Quallen and David Boland. Notable splits include a lead-off 22.67 for Lehane and breaststroke leg of 24.21 for Stevens, while Quallen registered a 21.05 for the Cardinals on the fly leg.
Tennessee continued the point accumulation with a siege on the 1000 freestyle event, led by sophomore Evan Pinion, who touched in 9:24.42 as the only swimmer to dip beneath the 9:30 threshold. Teammates Ben Miller (9:32.70), David Heron (9:34.14) and Sam Rice (9:34.90) followed suit touching in 2nd through 4th places, respectively. Pinion would later double up on his win, earning the 500 freestyle victory as well, with his time of 4:29.84. Teammates Miller and Heron finished in 2nd and 3rd in that event with times of 4:31.23 and 4:31.68, respectively.
Enter Louisville junior Trevor Carroll, who initiated the Cardinals’ retaliation beginning with a sweep of the men’s 200 freestyle. Carroll touched in a time of 1:37.49 to clear the NCAA “B” standard by two tenths and snag some needed points for the Cards, while setting a time just outside of the NCAA’s top ten so far this season. Junior Matthias Lindenbauer wound up 2nd in the race with a time of 1:38.08, followed by Jonathan Zoucha in 1:40.35.
Showing some range, Carroll’s second win came in the form of the 50 freestyle, where he threw down a 20.42 for the win. Volunteer freshman Decoursey touched in a time of 20.61, but another Cardinal sneaked in for 3rd with Boland’s 20.86. Decoursey also wound up 2nd in the men’s 100 freestyle sprint (45.29), finishing behind Louisville’s Lindenbauer who touched in 44.83 for the win.
But the Volunteers could lean on consistent Sean Lehane for some point power, with the senior registering a “B” cut of 47.73 in the 100 backstroke, a time which now ranks as 5th in the NCAA. He then followed that performance up with another victory in the 200 backstroke event. Lehane’s 1:42.84 from the latter event also comfortably clears the “B” cut is just about 2 seconds off of the “A” mark. Lehane’s result tonight also lands the senior on top of the 200 back NCAA rankings so far this season as the only swimmer to own a sub 1:43 time at this point. Louisville’s Tarasevich settled for runner-up in both backstroke events today, registering times of 47.81 and 1:45.03 for a pair of “B” cuts of his own and two top 10 NCAA rankings as well.
The breaststroke races were split between the two schools with the 100 breaststroke going to the Volunteers. Stevens, who hails from Slovenia and is credited with the fastest 50y breaststroke split in history at 22.72 at last year’s SECs, was able to speed to the wall first in a time of 55.18, narrowly defeating rival Claverie by just .08 (55.26). However, Claverie exacted his in-pool revenge, pulling down the 200 breast win in a time of 1:59.53 to beat Tennessee freshman Ethan Browne by just over a second (2:00.58) and register the only sub-2-minute mark of the day.
Throw in a couple of more Cardinal wins with Pedro Coutinho’s 48.57 100 fly victory and team captain Nolan Tesone’s 1:48.30-winning 200 IM, as well as a 200 fly Volunteer win in a time of 1:48.24 by recent SEC Swimmer-of-the Week Sam McHugh, and the two teams found themselves just six points apart headed into the final event.
In a thrilling finale, the Cardinals swam to a 1 and 3 finish in the 400y freestyle relay, securing enough points to bring the meet to a tie score of 150-150, avoiding a Louisville loss. Coutinho, Carroll, Tarasevich and Lindenbauer got the job done on the “A” relay, clocking a collective time of 2:57.79 with a supreme split by Carroll to the tune of 43.67. The only other sub-44 split came from Lehane’s effort of 43.58 as the anchor of the 2nd-place Tennessee squad who touched in a time of 2:53.70. The foursome of Boland, Christian Garkani, Max Grodecki and Jonathan Zoucha finished in 3:00.54 for 3rd.