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Pair of wins reinforces progress in Spiniello’s second season

With back-to-back losses against James Madison and Richmond looming in the mind of head swimming and diving coach Phil Spiniello, it was hard to ignore his energy as he ran up and down the pool deck during each event.

That energy translated into two wins for the Scarlet Knights, who defeated Fordham, 180-120, and Rider, 221-74, Saturday at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center. The two victories have Spiniello excited about the program’s turnaround from last season.

“Coming off a 2-4 record from last year we have really taken a step forward as a program,” Spiniello said. “Last weekend we came up a little bit short so we came in here, got two victories and ended the dual meet season on a positive note.”

Three swimmers took home two individual victories for the Knights. Senior Jacquelyn Ward finished first in both the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events. Senior Trisha Averill captured wins in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke, and sophomore Chelsea Rolin hit the wall before the rest of the field in both the 500- and 1,000-yard freestyle.

Sophomore Mary Moser finished the 50-yard freestyle with a first-place time of 24.12 to complete a sweep for the Knights in the freestyle events.

In diving, junior Katie Kearney placed first in the 1-meter dive with a score of 288.65, while sophomore teammate Nicole Scott recorded a score of 311.70 and a first-place finish in the 3-meter dive.

The two wins cap off a regular season in which the Knights finished 9-2, including a 4-0 mark in conference competition. The way the program bought into Spiniello’s vision made the coach proud of his senior leadership.

“We really wanted to turn the momentum around,” Spiniello said. “We did great on the boards and in the water, and I couldn’t be prouder of my seniors. They are really stepping up and leading this program.”

While the victories put an exclamation point on one of the most successful seasons at Rutgers, they also signaled the last time the Knights’ seniors would take to the pool competitively at home. Before the meet, Spiniello honored seniors Brianne Lindblad, Samantha Curham, Megan Caylor, Michelle Berman, Ward and Averill. He called the meet “emotional” for the program.

“It was hard to say goodbye and to swim in the pool for the last time,” Spiniello said. “However, our task of the Big East Championships and trying to crack the top five is still here, so we’re not done with them yet.”

Lindblad, who helped in the Knights’ 200-yard medley relay victory, says out of her experience in Piscataway, she will miss her teammates the most.

“It’s sad and it’s definitely a reality check,” Lindblad said. “We’re all really close, and it’s nice to know I have a family away from home.”

For now, Spiniello wants him team to reenergize before the Big East Championships.

“Over the next two weeks before we head out to [the Big East Championships], we are going to rest in the pool and work on the details,” Spiniello said. “We’re going to work on everything we need to be sharp on heading into those meets.”

The divers begin competition in the Big East Diving Championships first on Feb. 10, followed by the swimmers taking the pool on Feb. 15 for their conference Championships.