Invite serves as prep for season
Even though the Rutgers swimming and diving team competes in an exhibition match today at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center Invite, the meet contributes toward its goal to become Big East champions.
The Scarlet Knights welcome Southern Connecticut and club teams the Jersey Wahoos, the Somerset Valley YMCA and the Scarlet Aquatic Club to compete at the RU Aquatic Center.
"I look at it as a good way to start off the season, to get some races in and get some experience before we get into our Big East schedule next week," said head coach Phil Spiniello.
The meet is the first in which the Knights take on another team, but the emphasis has not changed in practice.
"As we have practices, scrimmages, dual meets, quad meets and invites throughout the season, training will not change," Spiniello said. "Our focus will continue to be the Big East Championship meet in February. We will train hard all the way through the season until that meet comes.
"Since September, we've increased the yardage and increased the intensity. Now we're going to keep it at this level until February."
Redshirt junior and captain Kirsten Fontana agreed that the meet should benefit the team.
"It's a three-session meet, so that gives us all a chance to swim a lot of races just to see where we're at," Fontana said. "It's just good to get up and race, whether it's against Southern Connecticut or any of the club teams we're going to be racing. It's just a good chance to get experience."
Although the approach coming into this meet is the same, the mindset is slightly different, Fontana said.
"There's a little more excitement for this meet, since it's against other people besides us," the captain said. "We swim with each other every day at practice, so as fun as an intrasquad meet was, this is our chance to prove ourselves."
With practice, the Knights are continually improving.
"We're getting stronger every day at every practice," Fontana said. "We focus a lot on the little details every single day with our technique. The hard practices have made us all a little bit better."
Southern Connecticut begins its season with the goal of an eighth straight Northeast 10 title.
"We're excited to face them," said senior captain Jen Betz. "They have a lot of strong swimmers and their divers are pretty good.
"I don't know who graduated from there last year, but we're preparing for this meet how we would any other one. It's a good first competition for us to get back into the meet setting."
The club teams might also pose tough matchups, according to Betz.
"Obviously they're not college swimmers yet, but it's good to get up and race against teams like that," Betz said. "It's good practice for our future meets. It's our first meet against other teams, no matter who they are. Competing against other people puts us in the right mindset of competition before our Big East meets.
"The divers have been doing more reps off the boards. We're going through more dives during practices and trying to do more of the dives we'll do when we're competing. We want to get more consistent."