Knights earn two conference victories
The Rutgers swimming and diving team took two wins Saturday in its final meet before the Big East Championships.
The Scarlet Knights defeated Georgetown, 287-66, and Seton Hall, 134-33, but lost to Villanova, 179-173.
The Knights finished the regular season 9-2 overall, with both of its defeats coming by a mere 36 points.
The loss should not undermine Rutgers’ impressive performance against conference foes this late in the season.
While the meet acted as ideal practice for the conference championships Feb. 27, the Knights have developed as a result of their weekend performance.
“Even though we lost to Villanova, I think it showed that we can hang with the top teams in the Big East,” said head coach Phil Spiniello.
Villanova has consistently appeared in the upper half of Big East teams in terms of wins. It is a place Rutgers want to reach, Spiniello said.
Several freshmen made their mark on senior day in the final home competition.
Rutgers placed first in the 200-meter medley relay along with the 200-meter freestyle relay. Both were led by freshmen Joanna Wu and Sarah Coyne.
Wu also finished first in the 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke.
The Knights swept the backstroke with freshman Morgan Pfaff and sophomore Lindsay Gibson-Brokop placing second and third respectively.
Senior co-captain Taylor Zafir said farewell to her home pool by taking first in the 400-meter individual medley. She was honored before the meet along with fellow co-captain Katie Kearney.
“It wasn’t my fastest season time, but I’m really happy with where I’m at and I’m just confident with where I’m going toward [the] Big East [Championships],” Zafir said.
Kearney led the Knights diving squad to victories in many of Rutgers’ matches, but it was sophomore Nicole Honey who took the top spots for Rutgers in the 1- and 3-meter dives.
The performance further developed consistency in her dives entering the Big East Championships, something Honey said she struggled with all season.
Junior Nicole Scott was right behind Honey the entire way with second-place finishes in both diving events.
We’re all such good friends, we all cheer for each other,” Honey said. “I think we always work off of each other’s positive energy and always turn out doing well.”
The Knights bounced back after Friday’s portion of competition, when they finished the day down 17 points. The team forced Villanova to take the victory in Saturday’s final relay.
“That just shows where we’re at as a team and the momentum, the approach and the mentality we’re going to take into the Big East Championship meet,” Spiniello said.
Spiniello gave a pep talk after Friday’s meet and emphasized the work the Knights gave all year to get to this point, Zafir said.
She felt the team had more energy and enthusiasm during the final day of competition.
The 400-meter freestyle relay was the victory-deciding event of the weekend. Two Rutgers teams placed second and third in the event, with just more than one second separating the Knights from Villanova’s top finish.
“It was just a good weekend all around for everybody, and I think we’re all ready to go to Indianapolis,” Zafir said.