Knights embrace challenges as second half approaches

<p>Senior swimmer Trisha Averill continues to lead the Knights in
the pool, breaking a school record in the 200-yard breaststroke and
winning Big East Swimmer of the Week.</p>

Senior swimmer Trisha Averill continues to lead the Knights in the pool, breaking a school record in the 200-yard breaststroke and winning Big East Swimmer of the Week.

With the first half of the year in the books, Rutgers head swimming and diving coach Phil Spiniello is pleased with the way his team performed and looks forward to what remains in the season’s second leg.

“We’re off to a great start,” Spiniello said. “We’ve laid the foundation for what we want to achieve in the second half, and our goal is to swim and dive to the best of our abilities then.”

The Scarlet Knights are 6-0 thanks to the way the team bought into Spiniello’s ideals, the head coach said. With wins against Big East-foes Georgetown, Seton Hall and Villanova, Spiniello noticed a difference in the way the team is performing compared to this point last season.

“The team is really buying into our vision,” Spiniello said. “They are motivated to be one of the best teams in the Big East.”

The team’s strong season came to fruition as it united through the past year. One of the team’s standouts is senior captain Trisha Averill, who already took home Big East Swimmer of the Week honors and recently Rutgers Student-Athlete of the Month for November.

At last weekend’s Princeton Invitational, the veteran broke the school record in the 200-meter breaststroke with a finishing time of 2:15.23.

“I’ve had a lot of acknowledgments lately, and it’s really nice that someone from the swim team was recognized as Athlete of the Month,” Averill said. “It’s an urgency to do well because it’s my last season.”

Spiniello is grateful to have such a successful leader as a member of the program.

“Trisha is a pleasure to coach,” Spiniello said. “Her work ethic is great and she leads by example. She really cares about not just her success, but the program’s success as well.”

Another strong part of the program is the performance of the divers. Junior Carissa Santora captured titles in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives this season.

Along with Santora, junior Katie Kearney, sophomores Valentina Gordon and Nicole Scott and freshman Nicole Honey all contributed to the Knights’ success on the boards.

Spiniello looks for his divers to continue their success moving forward.

“The divers had a great first half,” Spiniello said. “We’re looking for the divers to continue with their strong performances and get the team excited.”

Before the Big East Championships begin in February, Rutgers will compete in five dual meets beginning with a Jan. 15 matchup against Bucknell. The Knights then face James Madison and Richmond on the road before returning to campus on Jan. 28 to host Rider and Fordham.

Following the team’s final dual meet, the Knights earn a two-week break from competition before the Big East Championships.

Spiniello sees the dual meet stretch as an important time when the Knights can compete and get ready for when they arrive in Pittsburgh for Big East competition.

“I want to be competitive in all of these meets,” Spiniello said. “Our goal is to swim and dive to our capability during those meets and get ready for the championships.”

The Knights finished seventh out of 11 teams at last year’s Championships, something Spiniello’s undefeated team wants to change in his second year as head coach.

By all accounts thus far, the Knights are in good position to do so.

“We were seventh last year and we want to be better, period,” Spiniello said. “We want to be a better team than we were last year, and I believe we are on our way.”

The Knights’ unblemished record has Averill and the rest of the team excited to continue the push for a better performance once February arrives.

“It’s motivating,” Averill said. “Everyone is going to enjoy their time at home, but at the same time, continue to work hard and then come back ready. February is just around the corner for us, and we want to do well.”

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