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Ward's weekend highlights second-place finish

The Rutgers women’s swimming and diving team remains undefeated to start the season, despite a second-place finish this weekend in the Big Al Open behind host Princeton.

Head coach Phil Spiniello understood prior to the event that it would be one of the more difficult meets of the year. hHe said he was pleased with the way his team performed both in the water and on the boards.

“I was extremely happy with our swimming and our diving this weekend at the Big Al open,” Spiniello said. “Taking second place in a very competitive field was a great step forward for our program.”

The Tigers exited the invite with a final three-day score of 1,103.5. Their total was enough to beat the Knights, who completed their second-place effort with 638 points. Brown rounded out the top three with 621.5 points, followed by James Madison and Big East-foe Villanova.

“Princeton is a very good and deep team,” Spiniello said. “They have a lot of athletes and the way the scoring is set up, we kind of knew we were going to be fighting for second coming in. As a team, we’re very happy.”

Senior captain Jacquelyn Ward took home two first-place finishes. In the 200-yard individual medley, the veteran swimmer hit the wall first with a final time of 2:02.93. She completed the 400-yard individual medley ahead of the competition with a 4:20.04 mark.

“To see [Ward] win two events was good for the program,” Spiniello said. “It was nice to see her reap the benefits of her hard work.”

Senior Trisha Averill placed second in the 200-yard breaststroke on Day 3 of competition. Her finish broke a Rutgers record and was her second top-four finish of the weekend.

She also took fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke.

“I am very proud of Trish to set a school record,” Spiniello said. “It’s a great sign of where our program is at that we are taking down school records in my second year as head coach.”

The Knights finished third in the 200-yard medley relay. The quartet of Averill, senior Brianne Lindblad, junior Taylor Curado and sophomore Chelsea Rolin finished the race in 1:45.73.

The Knights’ best performance came from the divers, who swept the platform diving event held on Day 1 of the meet. Sophomore Nicole Scott finished first with a score of 235.65. Freshman Nicole Honey placed second with 195.85 points, and sophomore Valentina Gordon completed the trifecta with 192.85 points.

Scott also took second in both the 1- and 3-meter dives while junior transfer Carissa Santora contributed a fourth-place finish in each of the two events.

“The divers were incredible on the boards,” Spiniello said. “They scored a lot of points for the team, and our coaching staff is very excited for what else there is to come.”

While the Big Al Open provided a valuable test for the Knights, it also served as a homecoming for Spiniello, who served as an assistant for Princeton from 2006 until 2010, when he accepted the Rutgers head coaching job.

“I enjoyed my experience at Princeton,” Spiniello said. “But I was really happy to be back representing Rutgers this weekend.”

The Knights’ 2011 competitive season is complete, and they return to action Jan. 15 against Bucknell.

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