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Diving quartet finds comfort in more reps

<p>Freshman Valentina Gordon showed promise in the three-meter dive
Friday in the Knights' intrasquad meet.</p>

Freshman Valentina Gordon showed promise in the three-meter dive Friday in the Knights' intrasquad meet.

Comprised of a senior, a sophomore and two freshmen, the divers on the Rutgers swimming and diving team face abrupt changes in their experiences and roles.

Senior Jen Betz, a captain, saw a lot of potential in the group Friday at the team's intrasquad meet.

"As a whole, we did really well in the intrasquad meet," Betz said. "There's always room to improve, but I think for the beginning of the season we all have a really positive outlook and I hope that's the way the season's going to go."

The divers' only loss from last season was a big one in graduate Erin Saunders, who was a captain.

"She was an incredible diver and probably one of the best Rutgers has had in a very long time," Betz said. "The loss made us all step up and realize we have really big shoes to fill this year. It makes us push ourselves harder to try and fill her role on the team."

With the loss comes two new additions for the Scarlet Knights — freshmen Valentina Gordon and Nicole Scott.

"We're excited about the freshmen because they double [the diving] team," Betz said. "It's exciting because they don't know about our past program. It's exciting to have that fresh outlook on our team. They're ready. They're motivated."

Betz sees having four divers as an advantage over last year's squad, which only had three.

"Having a fourth helps a lot because with such a small number of people, one extra person adds a lot," Betz said. "The more the merrier. It makes practices more exciting and less stressful because you don't feel like you're carrying as much of the load."

Another advantage over last year's team is that Gordon and Scott are platform divers, and platform diving has been added to the Frank Elm Invitational and the Princeton Invitational, upcoming events for the Knights.

Along with the platform, Gordon is "really strong on the three meter," Betz said. "She works really hard, and coming in, I know she's made a lot of progress already."

Scott also dives the one-meter and three-meter. She won the one-meter in the intrasquad meet.

"She works so hard," Betz said of Scott. "She's made a lot of progress since coming here. Our coaches are really excited about having her dive."

Also on the team is sophomore Katie Kearney, who in the span of a year has gone from a freshman to the second-most experienced diver on the team.

Her leadership role is very similar to last season, Kearney said.

"Last year, we all kind of fed off of each other," she said. "If I was having a bad day, Erin and Jen would help me out. If they were having bad days, I would help them out. It wasn't necessarily a seniority thing. It was just that we were all there for each other. We were all teammates.

"It's not much different. We did lose Erin, so it's a little different. She was my big sister. She was someone for me to look up to, but now I look up to Jen."

Kearney also has a lot of confidence in the freshmen.

"The freshmen have great diving ability," she said. "They're a lot of fun. We'll joke around during practices. It's not always a serious vibe, and the freshmen definitely help that vibe."

Kearney also gives credit to head diving coach Fred Woodruff, who is in his 18th year with the team.

"I think he's an amazing coach," Kearney said. "He's always motivating us. He gives us a lot of insight into diving, so I love him as a coach. "

The divers have encouraged head coach Phil Spiniello so far.

In the intrasquad meet where they did three dives off the one-meter and three dives off the three-meter, they did very well, according to Spiniello.

"Although we haven't had any meets yet, they bring a lot of excitement and enthusiasm," Spiniello said.

Spiniello was impressed by Gordon's and Scott's improvement on the platform.

"Even though we rarely do the platform, it is very encouraging to have two members who can do it," he said.

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