Rutgers record remains unblemished with win

The arrival of the second semester signals the beginning of classes and a new start for students as they return to campus. For the Rutgers swimming and diving team, it marks the chance to continue its quest to finish with a perfect season.

The Scarlet Knights started off on the right track, defeating host Bucknell, 155-83, on Sunday to move to 7-0 on the season. Head coach Phil Spiniello was excited to see the team return to the pool after a long layoff from competitive action.

“It was great to get back up on the boards and blocks to race,” Spiniello said. “We’re now refocusing our mission here over the next 30 days before we get into the Big East Championship meets. I was really happy with the way we swam and dove.”

Senior Jacquelyn Ward finished first in two events. In the 400-yard individual medley, she touched the wall first with a final time of 4:24.56. Her finish capped a sweep for the Knights in the event, as senior Trisha Averill took second and junior Taylor Zafir finished third.

Ward also took home first in the 200-yard butterfly. The captain enjoyed her performance as well as the rest of the team’s showing in the pool.

“It was nice getting back on the block and being able to race again,” Ward said.

Sophomore Mary Moser also turned in a strong day as she finished with two first-place finishes. The young swimmer completed both the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events and also aided in the 200-yard medley relay victory for the Knights. Averill, senior Brianne Lindblad and junior Taylor Curado also assisted in the team win.

Lindblad captured the 200-yard backstroke, Curado won the 50-yard freestyle and sophomore Chelsea Rolin went home with a victory in the 500-yard freestyle. In all, the Knights came away with wins in 10 of the 11 swimming events.

Spiniello credits the hard work his team put in over break as a reason why it left with an overwhelming victory against the Bison, who left the weekend with a 4-4 record entering their next meet at Lehigh.

“The girls came off a two-and-a-half week training camp [over break] and trained real hard,” Spiniello said. “To come into this meet and get a win was a success for us.”

In diving action, the Knights swept both the 3- and 1-meter events and took seven of eight top finishing spots.

Sophomore Nicole Scott clinched first place in both events. In the 1-meter dive, she finished with a score of 283.15, and she took home gold with a 290.60 score in the 3-meter event. Junior Katie Kearney, sophomore Valentina Gordon and freshman Nicole Honey all contributed points toward the team’s victory.

“The divers were outstanding,” Spiniello said. “We took the one through four spots in the 1-meter event, which was great to see — just an awesome job from the divers.”

With a strong showing in its first meet since late December, Spiniello knows the road toward a perfect season remains a challenge for his team as it inches toward February’s Big East Championships.

“Our next meets against James Madison and Richmond are going to be real tough,” Spiniello said. “It is going to be a test for our program to go into those away meets on a road trip like that and step up against that competition, but I think our women are ready for the challenge.”

The Knights take on both schools on consecutive days starting Friday against James Madison. They compete Saturday against Richmond to complete their weekend doubleheader.

Ward believes the team is ready for the remaining meets and is confident going forward.

“We have three meets left before [the Big East Championships],” Ward said. “We’re on a roll.”