SEC Ramps Up This Week With Ten Teams Seeing Competition (10/30/2014-11/1/2014)

With only three Southeastern Conference (SEC) teams competing last week, all see race action this week except Arkansas, who are back at it on Nov. 8 to take on the Huskers in Lincoln, NE.

The SEC teams dive into action beginning Thursday with the Texas A&M men taking on the Sun Belt Conference’s Florida Atlantic University (FAU). Six SEC teams compete Friday, which sets up an exciting Saturday, when Alabama hosts LSU and Auburn in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for a conference show-down.

Texas A&M Travels To Florida Atlantic 

Texas A&M’s men defeated the University of Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Tx. last Friday and are back at it Thursday at 3 p.m. EST to dual FAU in Boca Raton, Fla., while the women were out of competition last week and take on the University of Houston (UH) and North Texas (NT) in Denton, Tx. on Friday at 3 p.m.

The men’s 135-98 victory over the UIW’s Cardinals last Friday in San Antonio was a bounce-back after a tough outing against the University of Texas in Austin, Tx. on Oct. 17, when the Longhorns won six out of nine events with first-through-third sweeps.

Against the Cardinals, the Aggies took 11 of 13 events and the top two spots in six of them. The win was led by senior captain Luke Shaw, who the 200-yard free (1:40.57) and the 100-yard fly (50.01) and anchored the winning 200-yard free relay with a 21.05 split. Other multiple wins for the Aggies came from diver Tyler Henschel (1-meter and 3-meter) and Jacob Gonzales in the 50-yard free (20.80) and 100-yard free (46.51).

While in Florida, the Aggies will face the Florida Atlantic Owls in their home opener at the FAU Aquatic Center. The Owls opened their season last weekend in a scrimmage against Princeton. They will be led by junior and Frenchman Matthieu Burtez, who recorded second place finishes in last season’s Conference USA Swimming and Diving Championships in the 50-yard free (19.87), the 100-yard free (43.64), and the 200-yard free (1:36.18).

The A&M women’s squad goes into Friday’s meet ranked No. 7 by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) rankings, which were issued last week. Living up to the ranking, the A&M women opened their season by winning all 16 events against conference rival Arkansas on Oct. 18 for a 170-120 win.

Friday’s meet will be more of a contest for the University of Houston’s Cougars and North Texas, as the A&M squad is one of the nation’s top teams. The A&M roster includes 10 returning swimmers of the 16 who represented the Aggies last season at the NCAA Championships.

Although A&M lost NCAA Champions Cammile Adams (200-yard fly), Breeja Larson (100-yard breaststroke) and Paige Miller (100-yard back), they do come back with experienced upperclassmen, including four seniors (led by Kelli Benjamin, Sammie Bosma, Sarah Henry and Liliana Ibanez), four juniors, and two sophomores.

Gators Go To Georgia For A Heavyweight Tilt

The University of Florida’s full team is in the pool Friday to take on host powerhouse Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, GA at 11 a.m. EST. The last time the Gators were in competition was Oct. 16, when they defeated the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.

The first half of the month was a busy one for the Gators as they kicked their season off on Oct. 3-5 off by winning their annual Pinch-A-Penny, All-Florida Invitational for the fifth straight year. The victory was made even sweeter for the Gators, as their victims also included the University of California, Berkeley’s women.

The Gators stayed in Gainesville, Fla. the next week to host and defeat Louisiana State University on Oct. 10. They then remained undefeated, having won their last meet on Oct. 16 against the host Wildcats. The win extended their perfect record against the Wildcats to 27-0 with the men’s team accounting for 15 wins and the women 12. The Gators competed hard in that meet, having won a lot of close races and came away with a win despite more than a dozen conference-level swimmers staying back in Gainesville due to illness.

On Friday, it’s a powerhouse match-up with Georgia. The Bulldogs are the repeat NCAA Champions on the women’s side and last year’s fifth-place finishers on the men’s side. The Gators topped the men in last years’ NCAA results with a third-place finish but were behind the Georgia women with a sixth place finish.

“The level of competition is definitely going to go up a notch,” said head coach Gregg Troy of Georgia in a video interview posted on the Gator’s site. “There will be a little less room for error. There won’t be any easy race.”

The men’s team is deep and complimented well with freshmen additions like Caeleb Dressel and Patrick Kennedy, while the women are not as deep in the roster but have the talent to perform multiple roles. The women will be led by the versatile Jessica Thielmann, who Troy says has taken on the role Elizabeth Beisel has left.

Also firing on all cylinders for the Gators this season are juniors Natalie Hinds, Sinead Russell and diver Kahlia Warner for the women’s squad, while roster depth is the real story for the men. At any time, the men can have many guys step up to produce multiple wins such as what Jack Blyzinskyj did against Kentucky in the 100-yard back and 100-yard fly.

Alabama Hosts LSU And Auburn For An SEC Tri-Meet

It’s a big SEC tri-meet on Saturday, as the Crimson Tide’s full team host Louisiana State University (LSU) and Auburn University in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 1 (Saturday) at 11 a.m. CST. None of the teams were in action last week, so the teams go in rested and hungry.

The CSCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving rankings released on Oct. 23 for NCAA Division 1, has Auburn in 8th, LSU in 15th and Alabama in 21st, which relieves a little pressure from the host women and probably adds a little motivation, too.

The high-ranking Auburn women go into the meet with depth. They will be led by All-Americans Megan Fonteno, sprint freestyler Allyx Purcell and backstroker Jillian Vitarius.

Purcell was seventh last season at the SEC Championships in the 50-yard free, while Vitarius had the team’s best placing at the NCAA Championships with an eighth place finish in the 200-yard backstroke. The women’s roster also includes four other NCAA Championship participants, plus sophomore freestyler Ashley Nedidigh, who earned an NCAA ‘B’ cut last season but did not compete at the championship meet.

LSU and Alabama will challenge Auburn in the individual races, but the Tigers should take the win. Look for LSU’s NCAA Championship qualifiers to lead them. This includes sophomore Caley Oquist, who owns team records in the 100-yard and 200-yard back events, junior Amber Carter, and sophomore Kara Kopcso, who also owns a team record with the 200-yard fly. For the host Alabama crew, senior and USA National Team member Kaylin Burchell and sophomore breaststroker Bridget Blood will ensure the Crimson Tide show well in the rankings, as the two made the finals at least season’s SEC Championships.

On the men’ side, Auburn goes into the meet as the favorite with a sixth place finish at the NCAA Championships. Alabama placed 12th and LSU 38th.

Auburn’s All-Americans will lead the Tigers. This includes diver Fraser McKean and sophomore swimmers Kyle Darmody, Michael Duderstadt and Joe Patching. Complementing them are Arthur Mendes, who finished 14th at the NCAA Championships in the 200-yard fly, and seniors Tommy McKee, Allen Browning, and Alex Hancock, who all have major championship experience. Watch for the Auburn to post good results in the relay. They are the defending NCAA Champions in the 400-yard free relay team.

Alabama’s NCAA Champion (50-yard free) Kristian Gkolomeev is the headliner for the Tide. The sophomore and All-American finished seventh in the 50-meter free (21.96) and 16th in the 100-meter free (49.49) at the 2014 European Championships over the summer. Last year as a freshman, he set the Tides’s school record in the 50-yard free with a blistering 18.95 seconds.

For LSU, the roster includes four members with NCAA Championship experience. South African Frank Greeff, who holds the school’s 200-yard fly record, brings the most experience for the swimmers, and senior Daniel Helm for the divers. Both hold NCAA Honorable Mentions honors.

Volunteers, Wildcats And Hoosiers Dual  In Knoxville

The SEC’s Volunteers and Wildcats go up against the busy Big Ten’s Hoosiers on Friday in Knoxville, Tn.

The University of Tennessee’s Volunteers have not seen action since Oct. 9-10, when they were in North Carolina for a meet with Queens and North Carolina. They did have their Orange and White Intra-squad meet on Oct. 16 to keep their engines warm. The Wildcats have been out of action for a few weeks, too. In their last meet, they suffered a loss on Oct. 16 to the visiting Gators, but put in a respectable showing with a lot of close racing.

The Hoosiers raced last weekend at Ann Arbor for the high-profile quad against the University of Texas Longhorns, the Louisville Cardinals and host Michigan Wolverines. The Hoosier men and women both delivered wins against Louisville but suffered losses to Michigan and Texas.

Women’s Meet

Lately, all the headlines have been coming from the Hoosiers, who have seen a lot of action in October. Leading the charge for Indiana’s women are Brooklynn Snodgrass, freshman Kennedy Goss, junior Haley Lips, and diver Jessica Parratto.

Snodgrass has been named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week honor twice this season. She leads the NCAA with best times in the 100-yard back (52.48) and 200-yard back (1:53.29). Goss won the 500-yard free (4:46.92) with a season-leading time at the Michigan quad and finished second in the 200-yard free in a competitive field. Lips is a threat in any meet to win and stack up top-three points in the middle distance freestyle events. On the springboard, Jessica Parratto won the 3-meter event at the Michigan quad.

For Kentucky, look to senior butterfly specialist Christina Bechtel, who was named to the 2014-15 USA Swimming National Team, and sophomore backstroker Danielle Galyer, who earned a spot on the 2014-15 Junior National Team, to lead the way for the Wildcats. Kendra Crew, Abby Myers, and Kendal Casey have also been delivering results for head coach, Lars Jorgensen.

This season, the Volunteers are getting results from freestyle sprinter Faith Johnson, fly and individual medley specialist Anna DeMonte, middle distant freestylers Lauren Driscoll and Morgan Dickson, and breaststrokers Molly Hannis and Amanda Carner.

Men’s Meet

Hoosier sophomore diver Michael Hixon, who took home his first Big Ten Diver of the Week honor for winning both the 1-meter and 3-meter at the Michigan quad, can be counted on to score points. In the swim lanes for the Hoosiers, senior Steve Schmuhl delivered strong results at the Michigan quad with multiple top-four finishes in competitive fields, which should translate to strong performances against the Wildcats and Volunteers.

Sophomores Anze Tavcar and Jackson Miller will help the Hoosiers in the sprint and middle distance freestyle events. Tavcar placed second the 100-yard free and posted a 43.88 split in the 400-yard free relay in Michigan, while Jackson finished third in the 500-yard free (4:28.78) and fourth in the 1000-yard free (9:14.21), which were very competitive races.

The performances from the Volunteers should come from their new leaders. Tennessee is a on steady path of improvement, having risen up the NCAA Championships ladder with a 15th place finish in 2014, 16th in 2013 and 22nd place 2012. Seniors Troy Tillman, Tristan Slater, Jacob Thulin and Ryan McFall will shoulder the responsibility of keeping the Vols on that improvement track this season. This meet will test their leadership and they will have some help from the seven-strong freshmen class, who have produced 11 individual wins over the first three meets of the season.

Kentucky’s men will get points from diver Levi Lindsey, sophomore butterfly specialist Kyle Higgins, sophomore Brandon Flynn and freshman Isaac Jones, who have all had strong starts to the season.

Gamecocks, Mizzou And Vanderbilt Face Out-Of-Conference Teams

South Carolina Women Host Florida Gulf Coast

The Gamecocks are part of the large SEC group that did not compete last week. This Friday (Oct. 31) at 5 p.m. EST, the women host Florida Gulf Coast in Columbia, S.C., while the men are off until Nov. 8, when they and the women host the College of Charleston and East Carolina for an afternoon meet, starting 12 p.m. EST.

Mizzou Hosts Missouri State

The visiting Mizzou women defeated the Razorbacks 166-134 in Fayetteville, Ark. last week, while the men saw no race action. The full team hosts Missouri State on Friday at 3 p.m. CST.

Vanderbilt in West Virginia to Face Marshall and Xavier

The all-women Commodores are in Huntington, W.V. on Saturday for a tri-meet against Marshall University and Xavier University. It has been two weeks since Vanderbilt competed, when they faced Auburn and Norte Dame on Oct. 18.

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