Knights travel to UConn, face three league teams

The Rutgers swimming and diving team travels to Storrs, Conn., this weekend for an early test against familiar Big East foes.

Georgetown, Villanova and host Connecticut are the first conference opponents the Scarlet Knights see this season.

Hosting two tune-up meets at the Rutgers Aquatic Center, the Knights found early success in the pool and on the boards. The Knights head to Connecticut ready and on a high note, hoping that success translates to Big East competition.

“The first couple of meets we had were important for us to get back on the blocks, back on the boards, get some dives, get some races, shake off the cobwebs and get ready for the season ahead,” said head coach Phil Spiniello.

The Big East season arrives Friday, and the Knights must prove they are ready for competitive races and challenging dives.

Junior captain Taylor Curado said this season has a chance to be a special one, and it starts this weekend.

“I think the short-term goal [as a captain] is to get the team to believe we are going to be able to do some pretty awesome things this year,” she said.

Such expectations were showcased last weekend at the Sonny Werblin Invitational, where the Knights took 16 first-place finishes. Senior captain Jacquelyn Ward shined, as the Berlin, N.J., native won three individual races.

A season ago at the Big East Championships, Ward and the Knights bested Georgetown and UConn by 192 and 21 points, respectively. The Knights finished three spots behind Villanova in seventh place.

Well off the Wildcats 395.5 points, the Knights want to show ’Nova they are a much-improved team.

With 11 freshmen and a rookie head coach a season ago, the Knights returned to campus this year with a mentality to succeed.

“The team really prepared physically by getting stronger in the weight room, staying fit over the summer, and coming back with just a mentality that we’re going to do this as a team,” Spiniello said. “We’re going to make improvements as a team, on the boards, in the pool. We’re going to get better.”

Diving captain Katie Kearney awaits this weekend’s competition and knows starting off strong is important for the team.

“We really want to start off positive,” Kearney said. “We want to go to this meet, not have any nerves, go in and get our dives off the way the way we’ve been training.”

With a week of training and two tune-up meets behind them, the Knights recognize the importance of staying focused on the competition.

“Typically we try to look at each meet the same,” Curado said. “Obviously it means a little bit more when we’re swimming Big East teams, but even with the small schools we take each race as an opportunity to get better in the pool.”

The Knights took advantage of the opportunities presented in their two home meets and now the test is to take advantage of stiffer competition in Storrs.

’Nova, UConn and Georgetown await a better Knights team that is ready to improve and move up the Big East rankings.

“Ultimately everyone that is involved with the program wants to see us improve as a team in the point total,” Spiniello said. “That is the ultimate goal, and if we take care of business on a daily-weekly basis, the points will take care of itself.”

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