Courtesy: Liberty Athletics
LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Liberty swimming & diving team begins its 2019-20 season with a pair of meets inside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Lady Flames will compete in a tri-meet at Penn State on Friday at 2 p.m., taking on the Nittany Lions and St. Bonaventure. They will then compete at Saint Francis (Pa.) at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Liberty’s next win will be the 100th victory in program history. The program’s first wins came on Oct. 8, 2010, when the Lady Flames swept VMI (167-35) and Radford (116.5-114.5) in a tri-meet at Radford’s Dedmon Center Pool.
• 10th-year Head Coach Jake Shellenberger has led the Lady Flames from the program’s inception. He has posted a 99-30 dual-meet record, being named CCSA Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year three times (2012, 2014, 2019). His teams have gone 53-14 all-time against CCSA competition.
• Liberty won its second-ever CCSA title in 2019, and first since 2014. The Lady Flames scored a meet-record 1,859.5 points while ousting four-time defending champion FGCU by nearly 200 points. It came five years to the day after Liberty’s first championship.
• The Lady Flames went a perfect 15-0 in dual meets last season, including 6-0 against CCSA opponents. Liberty has posted double-digit dual victories six times in program history.
• Liberty has won its last 23 dual meets in a row, a streak that began at the Gardner-Webb Tri-Meet on Oct. 27, 2017. It is the second-longest active dual-meet winning streak in NCAA Division I women’s swimming & diving, trailing on Stanford’s 30-meet winning streak.
• Last year at the CCSA Championships, the Lady Flames registered a program-record 27 podium finishes, 10 event victories, eight NCAA B cuts and lowered three program records.
• The state-of-the-art Liberty Natatorium opened on Dec. 1, 2017 with the Central Virginia Duals, and was dedicated on Jan. 26, 2018 with an official ceremony. The Liberty Natatorium provides one of the best venues for collegiate swimming and diving in the nation, with a Olympic-sized competition pool and separate diving well and seating for 1,400 spectators in a wraparound setting.
• This trip has special meaning for Liberty coaches Jake Shellenberger and Jessica Barnes, as Shellenberger was an assistant coach at Penn State for three years and Barnes swam for the Nittany Lions. Additionally, current Liberty senior Hannah Baker’s mother Cindy and older sister Sarah competed in swimming at Penn State.
• Liberty’s diving program made a dramatic rise last season, led by 2019 CCSA Women’s Diving Coach of the Year Tori Wood. Liberty divers contributed 225 points at the 2019 CCSA Championships. Also, then freshmen Lauren Chennault, Abigail Egolf-Jensen and Olivia Robinson became the first three divers in program history to qualify for the NCAA Zone Championships.
• A total of 13 current Lady Flames have posted CCSA podium finishes in their career, led by four from Payton Keiner. Hannah Baker and Mikayla Herich have both earned three top-three finishes, while Lauren Chennault, Lindsey Cohee, Colleen Donlin, Emily Manly, Olivia Robinson and Brittany Weiss have two podium finishes each. Arielle Arnett, Emma Hazel, Kiah Francis and Emily Zimcosky have each posted one podium finish.
• Junior Payton Keiner returns after winning both the 100 back and 200 back at the 2019 CCSA Championships. She won the CCSA 200 back as a freshman, and competed at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships. The 2018 Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet, she holds the CCSA record in the 200 back (1:53.68).
• Senior Brittany Weiss is a two-time CCSA champion in the 100 back, winning in program-record 52.81 in 2018. She was named the 2017 Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet.
• Redshirt junior Mikayla Herich holds program records in the 1650 free (16:37.35) and 200 IM (1:59.82) after winning both events at the 2019 conference meet. She set a program record at last year’s CCSA Championships by scoring 101 points.
• Sophomore Olivia Robinson, the 2019 VaSID State Rookie Diver of the Year, scored the most points by a Liberty diver at the 2019 CCSA Championships (62), taking second in both one-meter and three-meter. She holds Liberty’s record for platform diving (229.58).
• Sophomore Lauren Chennault enters the season as Liberty’s program record holder in one-meter (287.10) and three-meter (317.85) diving. Chennault posted two third-place finishes at the 2019 CCSA meet.
• Penn State is 2-0 all-time against Liberty in swimming & diving, defeating the Lady Flames at the 2014 Virginia Tech Swimming & Diving Challenge and at a tri-meet hosted by Georgia Tech on Oct. 2, 2015.
• Liberty is 1-3 all-time against Big Ten opponents, including 1-0 versus Michigan State, 0-1 against Illinois and 0-2 versus Penn State.
• This will be Liberty’s first meeting with either Saint Bonaventure or Saint Francis (Pa.).
• Liberty opened the last five seasons with wins at longtime CCSA foe Campbell. The last time the Lady Flames’ season opener took place some place other than Buies Creek, N.C., was 2013, when Liberty went 2-2 at the Virginia Tech Swimming Challenge.
• The Lady Flames have competed in Pennsylvania once before, defeating Duquesne 143-119 in Pittsburgh on Jan. 14, 2012.
• Penn State finished ninth at the 2019 Big Ten Championships. The Nittany Lions graduated U.S. National Team member Ally McHugh, who holds program records in the 500 free, 1000 free, 1650 free and 400 IM.
• St. Bonaventure placed ninth at the 2019 Atlantic 10 Championships. The Bonnies have two current program record holders on their roster in sophomore Rachel Kimmel (100 breast – 1:01.62; 200 breast – 2:15.98) and junior Katrina Wardner (400 IM – 4:21.49).
• Saint Francis (Pa.) finished third at the 2019 NEC Championships. Sabrina Bowman, a two-time NEC event champion, is SFU’s program record holder in the 100 fly (54.39) and 200 IM (2:02.10), while Karilyn Quon holds the record for the 200 back (2:01.73).
Liberty’s swimming & diving squad will split up next weekend, as the swimmers will take on Campbell on Friday in Buies Creek, N.C. and the divers will contest a tri-meet at UNCW on Saturday in Wilmington, N.C.