April 22, 2019 | 52° F

History on Rutgers' side when WVU comes to town

The résumé of Rutgers swimming and diving head coach Chuck Warner is impressive. In compiling a winning percentage of over .700, Warner led the Scarlet Knights to top-three Big East finishes in eight of his 12 years at the helm.

Perhaps even more remarkable, though, is the way Warner's teams thrive at home. RU has not dropped a conference meet on the Banks in 10 years.

But to continue that streak into 2010, the Knights have to be at their best Saturday when they host West Virginia.

"We are definitely going to be the underdog," Warner said. "They really have a good team. It's going to be quite a challenge for our girls to stay in the meet and certainly to win."

The Mountaineers are primed to make a run at the top of the league after finishing a spot behind RU in fifth place at last year's Big East Championships.

Led by reigning Big East Swimmer of the Year Morgan Callaway and three-time defending 100-yard freestyle champion Kayla Andrews, West Virginia has been buoyed by a stellar freshman class.

The Knights employed a similar formula for success in their convincing dual-meet victory over Villanova and Connecticut two weeks ago. Senior Shayna Longacre carried RU en route to earning recognition as the Big East Swimmer/Diver of the Week.

Fellow seniors Catherine Whetstone and Erin Saunders chipped in with wins in the 100-yard backstroke and one meter dive, while freshmen Taylor Curado, Melanie Gaffey and Brittney Kuras turned in solid efforts as well.

The Knights need continued contributions from the group's 17 underclassmen as the season progresses, Warner said.

"We're really pleased with the girls that we have that are freshmen," he said. "We knew they would be pretty good but they've been even better, perhaps, than we thought."

An added advantage for the Knights this weekend could be the two-week layoff from their last competition. Warner said the group used the time to recuperate and work on improving in longer events.

Fresh off several record-breaking performances, Longacre is excited about RU's prospects against WVU and knows that the outcome could carry over for the duration of the fall.

"If we do well with West Virginia … it will give us confidence, and hopefully it will set us up for some good races at Harvard and then continue on for the rest of the season," she said.

Kevin O'Rourke

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