Liberty Splits Squad to Head to UNC Asheville, Georgia Southern

Courtesy: Liberty Athletics

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Liberty will split its swimming and diving squads this Saturday, with the swimmers competing at UNC Asheville and the divers participating in a meet at Georgia Southern.

Both meets, at UNC Asheville’s Justice Center Pool and Georgia Southern’s RAC Aquatics Center, will begin at 11 a.m.

Following a 3-0 showing at the FGCU Duals on Jan. 5, Liberty is a perfect 11-0 in dual meets, including CCSA wins over Campbell, FGCU and Gardner-Webb and victories over non-conference foes Bowling Green, Buffalo, BYU, James Madison, Marshall (twice), New Mexico State and Old Dominion.

Liberty is 3-0 all-time against UNC Asheville in women’s swimming & diving, defeating the Eagles each of the last three seasons.

Liberty’s CCSA Weekly Honorees (2018-19)

CCSA Swimmer of the Week – Fr. Gianni Pitto (Oct. 2, 2018); R-So. Mikayla Herich (Oct. 31, 2018)

CCSA Diver of the Week – Fr. Olivia Robinson (Oct. 31, 2018); Fr. Lauren Chennault (Nov. 13, 2018)

This is the second time in program history that two different Liberty divers have earned CCSA Diver of the Week in the same season. The first was 2015-16, when both Brooke Fox and Courtney Fox were named Diver of the Week.

Liberty has the top performances in the CCSA this season in the following events:

One-meter diving (6) – 282.75 (Lauren Chennault)

Platform diving (5) – 229.58 (Olivia Robinson)

1000 freestyle – 10:06.54 (Mikayla Herich)

1650 freestyle – 16:50.16 (Mikayla Herich)

200 butterfly – 1:56.33 (Alicia Finnigan)

400 IM – 4:21.76 (Gianni Pitto)

Team Notes

• Their last time in the pool, on Jan. 5, the Lady Flames topped FGCU in a dual meet for the first time in program history, 173-122, while also downing Bowling Green and Buffalo. Liberty handed FGCU its first-ever conference home loss while extending the Lady Flames’ conference winning streak to 12 dual meets.

• The Lady Flames have won 19 dual meets in a row, dating back to the Gardner-Webb Tri Meet on Oct. 27, 2017. The only NCAA Division I women’s swimming & diving team with a longer active dual-meet winning streak is Stanford, which has won 25 straight dual meets. Michigan and Texas are tied with Liberty for second place with active winning streaks of 19 dual meets.

• The Lady Flames have won the three-meter diving event each of the last four times it has been contested in dual-meet action.

• Liberty was impressive in its home debut, sweeping BYU, Gardner-Webb and Old Dominion during the All-American Celebration Meet, Oct. 26-27 at the Liberty Natatorium. It marked the first time in Liberty Athletics history to host BYU in any sport.

• Liberty has finished second at the CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships six times in the last seven years, with its lone CCSA title to date coming in 2014.

• Ninth-year Head Coach Jake Shellenberger has led the Lady Flames from the program’s inception. He has posted a 95-30 dual-meet record, twice being named CCSA Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year. His teams have gone 50-14 all-time against CCSA competition.

• Liberty has added its largest incoming class since the first year of the program, bringing in 14 new student-athletes (10 swimmers, four divers). This includes 11 freshmen, along with transfers Mikayla Herich (Ohio), Emily Zimcosky (Ohio) and Arielle Arnett (Oakland).

• Five Lady Flames earned CSCAA Scholar All-America honors last season. Alicia Finnigan and Payton Keiner were named to the first team, while Hannah Baker, Kiah Francis and Brittany Weiss received honorable mention.

• Eight current Lady Flames have posted CCSA podium finishes in their career, led by Alicia Finnigan with seven. Hannah Baker has earned three top-three finishes, while Brittany Weiss and Payton Keiner have two podium finishes each. Lindsey Cohee, Colleen Donlin, Kiah Francis and Emily Manly have each posted one podium finish.

Student-Athlete Notes

• Freshman Lauren Chennault earned victory in three-meter diving at Marshall on Nov. 10. Her score of 287.55 set a new program record and also earned her a spot at the 2019 NCAA Zone Diving Meet. She then scored a Zone-qualifying 282.75 to win a one-meter competition on Nov. 16 at the Liberty Invitational. Chennault won three-meter diving at FGCU, scoring 275.40.

• Freshman Olivia Robinson won the three-meter diving event at the All-American Celebration Meet, the first Lady Flame to win a diving event at a dual meet. Robinson has qualified for the NCAA Zone Qualifying Meet on all three boards, including a program-record score of 229.58 on platform on Nov. 18.

• Redshirt sophomore Mikayla Herich won the 1650 freestyle in 16:50.16 at the Liberty Invitational, the fourth-fastest time in program history. She leads the CCSA in the both the 1000 (10:06.54) and 1650 freestyle this year. Arielle Arnett ranks fifth in program history with her 17:02.20 at the Liberty Invitational.

• Freshman Gianni Pitto has won an impressive 15 individual events so far this season, winning the 100 breaststroke six times, the 200 breaststroke five times and claiming the 400 IM four times. Her conference-leading 400 IM time of 4:21.76 is ranked third on Liberty’s program all-time top 10 list in the event. Pitto defeated FGCU’s Petra Halmai in both 100 and 200 breaststroke, events in which Halmai earned top-three finishes at the 2018 CCSA Championships.

• Defending CCSA Women’s Swimmer of the Year Alicia Finnigan claimed first in the 200 fly at the Liberty Invitational with an NCAA B cut time of 1:56.33. Finnigan is second on the team with 12 individual-event victories this season. She won the 100 fly at the Liberty Invitational in 53.91.

• Finnigan earned a spot at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, finishing fifth in the 200 meter butterfly at the 2018 USA Swimming Winter National Championships. She was one of a program-record four Lady Flames in the meet, joined by Lindsey Cohee (200 fly), Payton Keiner (200 back) and Gianni Pitto (200 breaststroke).

• Junior Brittany Weiss won the 100 backstroke in 11 straight meets before placing second at the All-American Celebration meet with a 55.42. She placed second in the 200 IM in 2:02.79 at the Liberty Invitational, moving into fifth place in program history in the event.

• Junior Colleen Donlin won the 50 freestyle at seven straight dual meets before that streak was snapped at FGCU.

• Sophomore Payton Keiner swam 1:59.88 in the 200 backstroke at the All-American Celebration Meet, becoming the first Liberty swimmer to break 2:00 in the 200 back in a regular-season meet.

• Sophomore Lindsey Cohee won the 200 fly in 2:01.51 at FGCU, edging out teammate Finnigan as Liberty placed two finishers ahead of FGCU’s Christina Kaas Elmgreen, who is the conference record holder in the event.

• Keiner returns after earning 2018 Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet honors. She won the 200 back and finished second in the 100 back at the CCSA Championships, and went on to compete in both events at the NCAA national meet. She holds the CCSA record in the 200 back (1:53.68).

• Three Liberty newcomers, transfer Mikayla Herich (1000 free) and freshmen Gianni Pitto (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 400 IM) and Emma Hazel (200 back), won in their Liberty debut at Campbell. Fellow newcomers, transfers Emily Zimcosky (Ohio) and Arielle Arnett (Oakland), earned their first victories as Lady Flames at New Mexico State.

• Senior Alicia Finnigan was named the NCAA ELITE 90 Award winner for having the top GPA at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships. Finnigan also earned Google Cloud At-Large Academic All-America second team honors.

• Finnigan won the 200 fly at the CCSA Championships for the second year in a row before making her second straight appearance at the NCAA Championships.

• Weiss repeated as CCSA champion in the 100 back last season, winning in program-record 52.81. She was named the 2017 Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet.

• Sophomore Kiah Francis set the program 400 IM record at 4:18.70, taking second in the event at the 2018 CCSA meet.

Matchup Highlights

• UNC Asheville is 3-5 in dual meets this season, including 2-3 against CCSA opponents. The Bulldogs have posted conference wins over Gardner-Webb and North Florida this season. Last year, UNC Asheville finished seventh at the CCSA Championships with 663 points. Current Bulldogs Morgan Rulevich (five records), Skylar Rogan (three), Madison Rogan (two) and Catherine Allen (one) combine to hold 12 of UNC Asheville’s 14 existing program records.

• Georgia Southern has three divers, Katie Knight, Gretchen Mossburg and Sara Rogers, who all competed at the 2018 NCAA Zone Diving Meet. Rogers finished third in three-meter diving at the 2018 CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships. All three have yet to qualify for the 2019 Zone Qualifying Meet.

Order of Events – Liberty at UNC Asheville

200 Medley Relay
1000 Freestyle
200 Freestyle
100 Backstroke
100 Breaststroke
200 Butterfly
50 Freestyle
15 minute break

100 Freestyle
200 Backstroke
200 Breaststroke
500 Freestyle
100 Butterfly
10 minute break

200 Individual Medley
200 Freestyle Relay

*Liberty’s divers will compete in both one-meter and three-meter springboard at Georgia Southern on Saturday.

Up Next

Liberty will host its last regular-season dual meet next Friday and Saturday, welcoming Campbell and Marshall to Liberty Natatorium. Friday’s action starts at 6 p.m., while Saturday’s first event will be at 11 a.m. Prior to Saturday’s session, Liberty will honor its seniors (Shelby Black, Alicia Finnigan, Ricki Lee Hodges, Corrilynn Lynch, Elizabeth Magnusson, Ashley Mauzy and Siani Null) with a Senior Day ceremony.

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