A very young North Carolina team received a boost of confidence on Friday night by sweeping the Tennessee Volunteers at home on Friday afternoon.
On the women’s side, that win came by way of a 204-96 romping, while the Tar Heels men won 170-130.
The women’s meet started off as a close battle, with the medley relays being separated by only two-tenths of a second.
North Carolina had a huge advantage from their backstroker Hellen Moffitt and their butterflier Hannah Lincoln, who combined to be 2.11 seconds faster than their Volunteer counterparts. This was a relay of cat-and-mouse, though, because every time North Carolina got an edge, Tennessee fought back on the next leg. Tennessee’s breaststroker Molly Hannis and freestyler Faith Johnson combined for 1.88 seconds better than their opponents.
That left the overall margin of 1:40.30-1:40.53 in favor of the home team, but with another few yards, Faith Johnson (22.08 anchor) might’ve run down her counterpart Ally Hardesty (22.59).
After that, though, the meet became a runaway for North Carolina. In total, they won 12 out of 16 events, including a sweep of the diving (that has historically been a Tennessee strength).
Among the highlights included the North Carolina distance crew. Emma Nunn started the individual portion of the meet with a 9:55.34 to win the 1000 free, and came back about 15 minutes later with a 1:48.82 in the 200 free. That 200 free time put her 2nd to senior teammate Danielle Siverling, who won in 1:47.70.
That was the first of two individual wins for Siverling, who also swam a 4:52.50 to win the 500 free (Nunn again placed 2nd in 4:54.98).
Siverling struggled a little bit at the end of her junior year as compared to her 7th-place finish in the 500 at NCAA’s when she was a sophomore, but this early performance indicates she may be in for a bounce-back. She was faster in both events (including four seconds better in the 500) than she was to open last season.
The Tar Heels graduated a very good senior class after last year, and so they’ll be counting on Siverling to come up big this season. She’s the only swimmer on the North Carolina roster listed at 6-feet-or-taller, and that’s indicative of her status as one of two captains of the women’s team this year.
Among others who swam very well for UNC includes sophomore Hellen Moffitt. She won three individual events on the day, posting times of 53.49 in the 100 back, 1:57.79 in the 200 back, and 53.73 in the 100 fly.
Those times all rank her in the top 4 in the country this season, and the 100 backstroke time puts her at the top of the pile through the first month of competition. Based on history, that swim is only a few tenths away from what it takes to qualify for NCAA’s, and it’s already a lifetime best for Moffitt.
For Tennessee, the same two who carried their medley also carried the weight individually. Molly Hannis had the most impressive performance we’ve seen from a breaststroker this season. She won the 100 in 1:00.84 and followed that with a 2:12.92 in the 200 breaststroke. While only one swimmer (Minnesota’s Kierra Smith) has been faster than Hannis in the 200 this season, she was actually a 2:11.2 on Thursday to lead the nation in that race as well.
Junior Faith Johnson swept the women’s sprint events. She swam a 22.78 in the 50 free, which beat out a 2-3 from Sarah Hitchens (22.96) and Hannah Lincoln (23.26).
After the diving break, Johnson took another tight win, swimming a 50.16. The Tar Heels again were hot on her heels, though this time it was Lauren Earp (50.28) and Ally Hardesty (50.37). The three were in a dead-heat for the entire race, with Johnson making her mark in the last 25 yards.
The men’s meet was a much tighter affair, and in the Volunteers actually started with a win in the medley relay: another very tight battle. There was a timing malfunction, so splits didn’t come through in official results, but Tennessee swam a 1:28.50 to UNC’s 1:28.61.
North Carolina anchor Logan Heck split a 19.89 to close in a runner-up effort.
Next up, North Carolina freshman Henry Campbell won his first intercollegiate race in his first intercollegiate meet with a 9:16.17. That beat out teammate Eugene Tee (9:17.61) and Tennessee National Teamer David Heron (9:19.34).
The next race saw another freshman on top, with the victory this time going to Tennessee rookie Sam McHugh in the 200 free. McHugh swam a 1:39.32 as part of a Volunteer 1-2-3, along with Tristan Slater (1:40.19) and Evan Pinion (1:40.89).
McHugh Laos won the 200 IM later in the meet in 1:50.05.
Other freshman winners included Tennessee’s Peter John Stevens, who won the 100 breaststroke in 55.08.
Tennessee got two more wins from junior Sean Lehane, who swept the backstrokes in 48.23 and 1:44.37, respectively.
While the Volunteers picked up a lot of wins, two years into their rebuilding process, they still didn’t have the depth to fight off UNC.
Logan Heck swept the sprint races for North Carolina. In the 50, he swam a 20.39, with teammate Sam Lewis just behind in 20.42. Heck won again in the 100 free, swimming 44.78. He got out to a great lead and was able to inch away from Tennessee’s Troy Tillman (45.55) for a relatively comfortable win.
Maybe the most impressive swim of the day on the men’s side was Ben Colley in the 200 fly. He swam a 1:45.67 to top McHugh (1:47.37) in the 200 fly by almost two seconds. That’s the fastest time in the country this year and is five seconds faster than the time he swam in his first meet last season. He’s blossoming into the next leg of the great North Carolina 200 fly tradition.
In his second individual swim of the meet, Colley doubled up with a win in the 100 fly in 47.54. North Carolina took the top four spots in that race, though only three were eligible to score.
Tennessee will swim next at their orange and white intrasquad on Thursday, October 16th. North Carolina will face another SEC opponent next Friday, when they welcome in Georgia, before starting their conference lineup on October 25th against defending conference champions Virginia Tech.
Full meet results available here.