July 18, 2019 | 74° F

Knights dive into league meet in Storrs

The Rutgers swimming and diving team heads into its dual meet against Villanova and Connecticut this weekend with some extra motivation.

Despite topping both schools at home last season, senior co-captain Denise Letendre said the Scarlet Knights still feel they have something to prove.

"Villanova beat us two years ago and we still kind of have a little bit of a sour spot for that," Letendre said. "We really want to crush them because they weren't necessarily the most sportsmanlike when they beat us last time."

Competition begins today as RU travels to Storrs, Conn., for their first Big East test of the season. The Knights aim to build off the momentum generated by their victories in last weekend's SWRC Invite, which functioned as a tune up for the young squad.

Head coach Chuck Warner said that while his teams have enjoyed success in conference dual meets during his tenure — losing only once in the past 10 years — they will be tested this weekend.

"Both UConn and Villanova have very good freshmen classes," Warner said. "It should be good competition and usually that brings out the best in our girls."

Freshmen Brittney Kuras and Melanie Gaffey turned in stellar efforts for RU in the season opener. Kuras captured first place in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley. Gaffey won the 50-yard freestyle and posted top-three marks in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle. Both were part of the relay teams that accomplished first place finishes across the board.

They are just part of an 11-member freshmen class that has integrated into the team dynamic rather easily, Letendre said.

"It's nice because in previous years we've had a lot of injuries, so a lot of times you look at the stands and our section's empty because we don't have that many people," Letendre said. "But it was nice to have another eight or nine girls who weren't swimming that individual race up there cheering."

Letendre added that the group's early-season focus is on improving technical aspects of swimming, including starts and turns.

"Those are the kinds of things that, in a practice situation, you can get down pretty well. But in a meet, sometimes you get panicked and try to go fast and forget about the little details," Letendre said.

Senior co-captain Erin Saunders cited consistency as a goal for herself and fellow divers. Saunders said the physical aspect can sometimes be the simpler part of the equation.

"Diving is so unbelievably mental," she said. "We have to really be comfortable with something to be able to go up and do it well. We just have to practice getting reps off and get us to feel comfortable for the meet."


Kevin O'Rourke

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