Knights welcome Fordham, Rider to Piscataway

The Rutgers swimming and diving team knows this time is crucial for it to experience success against the best from their conference, with less than two weeks remaining until the Big East Championships.

The Scarlet Knights get their final competitive test Saturday, when they host Fordham and Rider at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center. Head coach Phil Spiniello sees the two opponents as his program’s final opportunity to experience challenging head-to-head competition before the league championships.

“This is our last regular season head-to-head competition,” Spiniello said. “Both Fordham and Rider are very good programs, so we have our work cut out for us.”

While the meet is the last regular season competition for the Knights, it is also the final hurrah for the team’s seniors. There will be a 10-minute recognition ceremony for the departing class before competition begins, as Spiniello plans on saying a few words for each swimmer.

“It’s our senior meet and senior day, so we want to come out on top,” Spiniello said. “I think we’re focused and ready to go, and we want to recognize our seniors well at home.”

Coming out on top will be another tall order for the Knights. Fordham won the Atlantic-10 two years ago and did something Rutgers could not: beat Richmond.

The Rams feature recent Atlantic-10 Swimming and Diving “Performer of the Week” Andrea Krok, who earned the recognition after last weekend’s performance. The senior captured three of four diving events, including a school record in the 3-meter dive.

Rider arrives in Piscataway with a two-match winning streak, including a 178-110 victory last Saturday over Fairfield.

With the challenge in front of his team, Spiniello witnessed a renewed energy in practice that makes him confident his squad can bounce back from consecutive losses.

“They have been focused and want to end the dual-meet season on a positive note,” Spiniello said. “They are fired up to send the seniors out on a winning note, and the energy is high.”

For the Knights to come out of the home meet with another win on their record, Spiniello looks to sophomore Nicole Scott to lead the way. The young diver enters the meet off a strong showing last weekend, when she swept both 1- and 3-meter dive events against Richmond.

Spiniello has faith that his divers will deliver and knows this is a great chance for them to continue to improve their techniques.

“I’m looking for the divers to focus on the details and fine-tune their dives,” Spiniello said. “I want to see them do the best job that they possibly can.”

Following their tri-meet, the Knights have 12 days before they head to Pittsburgh for the Big East Championships. Spiniello believes his team is prepared.

“We’re focused and ready to go [for the Big East meet],” Spiniello said. “The energy for that meet is growing every day we get closer.”

For now, Spiniello’s main concern is making sure his team performs well in the confines of its home venue.

“We haven’t been here since November, so it’s good to be home,” Spiniello said. “To be back in front of the home crowd in our home pool will be a good way to end the dual-meet season.”