Courtesy: North Carolina Athletics
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — After kicking off the 2018-19 season with a sweep at East Carolina, the University of North Carolina swimming and diving teams host the University of South Carolina on Friday, Oct. 26 in their first and only home meet of the fall season. The meet will begin at 3 p.m. in Koury Natatorium.
“We’re excited to have a home dual meet on Friday,” said North Carolina head swimming coach Rich DeSelm. “We used to swim against South Carolina almost every year, but their coach McGee Moody and I decided to try to reinvigorate the rivalry so we went to them last year and had a really good meet. They’re an outstanding team. They’ve improved since last year and we were fortunate enough to bring home a win for the women’s team last season. It was hard fought and came down to the last few events. Their men were a little more dominant than us so this year we’re excited to have a chance to step up and see how our preparation has gotten us ready at this point in the season. I think it’s going to be an exciting couple of hours.”
Thanks to a sweep of East Carolina, both Tar Heel teams are starting off the season 1-0. The men defeated the Pirates 159 to 141 in thrilling fashion while the Carolina women bested their competition 196 to 99.
On the men’s swimming side, sophomore Alvin Jiang led the Tar Heels. Jiang sported two individual wins in the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly while sophomore Valdas Abaliksta also added valuable points to Carolina’s score, taking home first place in the 100-yard breaststroke and second place in the 200-yard breaststroke. In addition to their individual efforts, both Jiang and Abaliksta, along with junior transfer Luka Tomic and sophomore Jack Messenger, were part of the victorious 400-yard freestyle relay.
For the women, the Tar Heels showed up with a dominant performance in their first meet of the season. Newcomer Sophie Linder stole the spotlight with two individual wins and contributions on two winning relays and senior Robyn Dryer took first place in both the distance freestyle events. With sweeps in numerous events, Carolina’s women won 13 of the 16 events on the day.
“It’s never a given that your high-level performers are going to do it again, but there’s a reason great ones are great,” DeSelm said. “We want to obviously capitalize on the proven results even though we’ve only had one meet this year. Over time we’ve certainly had people back up their performances, but more importantly in this meet, it’s going to be how deep into the team we can step up and show some improvement in each event. Improve times, improve skills, improve places. Friday is really all about the depth of the team stepping up.”
Both diving squads also had impressive showings in their first competition. The five women took the top-five spots in both the one-meter and three-meter competitions and the two men’s divers placed first and second in each of their events. Senior captain Maria Lohman snagged first in the women’s one-meter while freshman Emily Grund lived up to the hype and captured the three-meter title. Though the Tar Heels edged out the Pirates in the final relay to secure the win, the men’s diving squad earned the team some crucial points as junior Bryan Allen finished first of five in the three-meter and junior Andrew Owsiany earned first-place accolades in the one-meter.
“This is going to be a good challenge for our kids,” UNC diving coach Abel Sanchez said. “I think on the girls’ side, it’ll be a really good contest. They have some pretty solid girls. We have solid girls so we’ll see what happens there. On the guys’ side, we still may not have our full line up with Sean Burston still getting back so Andrew Owsiany and Bryan are going to have to step up. South Carolina has some really talented divers on their men’s squad too so all of our divers are going to have to be on.”
In the last meeting between the Tar Heels and the Gamecocks, the North Carolina women topped South Carolina 159 to 141 to earn their first win of the season. The women’s team certainly has a challenge ahead of them as the South Carolina women are ranked 19th in the nation, but they hope that their performances on Friday will help them repeat last season’s success. On the men’s side, the Tar Heels are looking to redeem themselves from their last meeting with the Gamecocks. With a promising freshman class, the men are eager to get another win under their belt.