Championship tune-up on board
Rutgers diving coach Fred Woodruff does not have any illusions as to the importance of Saturday's Drexel Diving Invitational.
"The meet this weekend is kind of like a little tune-up," said the 18th year coach. "It doesn't really mean much, but it's good for all of us, not just to dive, but to dive in competition. It's good for them. Hopefully, we'll be ready."
Drexel welcomes George Mason and Rider to Philadelphia along with the Scarlet Knights, as each club looks to gain momentum heading into their respective conference championships.
Larger things loom for the Knights, with the Big East Championships a week away and the season-ending NCAA Zone Diving Championships coming in mid-March.
Nevertheless, each diver enters the season's final stretch in a different place and with a different outlook.
Senior Erin Saunders struggled earlier in the year despite posting several victories in both the one and three-meter dives but is improving, Woodruff said.
Saunders comes off a pair of second-place finishes in the Swimming World College Conference Carnival, where she got the chance to go toe-to-toe with Minnesota's Kelci Bryant, a former Olympian.
"It was good for Erin to dive in that," Woodruff said. "Diving against some of the best is always helpful in terms of getting ready to dive in a big meet."
Already the owner of two top-10 finishes at last year's Big East Championships and a ninth place showing on the one-meter board at the Zone Championships, Saunders looks to add to her impressive resume.
Woodruff added that Saunders is well suited to focus on the meet at hand.
"[Being it's her last college meet, it] is playing in her mind a little bit and I'm hoping that we can put that aside and just compete," he said. "She's doing a lot of things better than she was back [earlier in the season] so we definitely have made some progress."
For junior Jen Betz, health is the main concern. Hamstring injuries hampered Saunders' fellow Pennsylvania native throughout the course of the season.
"I just hope her body holds up," Woodruff said. "I'm hoping she'll feel good that weekend and be able to compete well."
Saturday's event will likely be of the greatest use to freshman Katie Kearney, who is consistently progressing in her first year on the Banks.
"I just told her … to compete and do the best you can and don't worry about where you end up," Woodruff said.