Freshman shines despite first loss
The Rutgers swimming and diving team returned to the RU Aquatic Center last weekend for its first competition of the calendar year.
The Scarlet Knights entered the weekend undefeated and set out to avenge their only two losses from last season, which came from Richmond and James Madison.
Rutgers hosted Richmond and Central Connecticut State on Friday, and James Madison traveled to Piscataway the next morning.
James Madison handed Rutgers its first loss of the season as the Dukes took a close victory by a score of 165-135.
“I was proud of my team,” said head coach Phil Spiniello. “We swam and dove really well. They fought the whole way.”
The Knights put freshman Joanna Wu, sophomore Greta Leberfinger, and juniors Brittany Guinee and Mary Moser in the 200-yard medley relay, in which they finished second with a time of 1:45.55.
Wu took first in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:52.06 and placed first in the 500-meter freestyle event at 5:02.07. She finished first in three solo events throughout the weekend.
“[Joanna] has really bought into the program and doing everything that we’re asking her to do,” Spiniello said. “She’ll develop into a great swimmer.”
Freshman Morgan Pfaff improved her score from the previous day in the 100-meter backstroke, earning a first-place finish with a time of 56.86 seconds, a personal best.
She also took first in the 200-meter backstroke with another personal-best finish of 2:04.82.
Guinee and Leberfinger placed first in the 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter breaststroke, respectively.
Senior captain Taylor Zafir finished third in the 1,000-meter freestyle at 10:32.25, the best time for Rutgers against James Madison.
“I haven’t posted those times, at least in the 1,000, since high school,” Zafir said. “I really just fed off the energy of the team.”
In diving, sophomore Nicole Honey scored 267.60, the best finish for the Knights, and junior Nicole Scott and senior captain Katie Kearney followed.
“We went into the meet knowing it was going to be a struggle,” Kearney said. “We were cheering until the very end and standing behind each other as a team.”
There was no disappointment after the meet, as both of the Knights’ captains emphasized the effort the team put forth.
“That was the most exciting college meet I’ve competed in,” Zafir said. “We all swam incredibly and win or lose, we really acted like a team.”
The Knights did not lose momentum Friday after a month-and-a-half layoff as several athletes recorded personal- and season-best times en route to a two-victory day.
Rutgers defeated Central Connecticut State, 219-80, and Richmond by a score of 164-135.
“We knew we were in for some good competition,” said head coach Phil Spiniello. “It was good to come out and get those wins and set the tone for the second half of the season.”
Training during the extended winter break played a role in the Knights’ performance.
“The break has been very important and very intense,” Kearney said. “We were just able to come out of the winter training and hit everything off so it’s an awesome start to the semester.”
The team began the day with a top finish in the first swim, as the ‘B’ squad consisting of Wu, Leberfinger, Guinee and Moser, finished with a time of 1:45:30 minutes.
Wu took the top spot in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 55.61 seconds, a personal best.
Leberfinger placed second in the 100-meter breaststroke at 1:05.31 with junior Allyson Perrotti directly behind her at 1:06.01. The scores were the best of the season for both swimmers.
Guinee improved her season-best time in the 100-meter butterfly by almost a full second, finishing in second place at 56.65 seconds.
She finished first in the 200-meter butterfly at 2:03.52, while Zafir and freshman Casey Penrose placed next for Rutgers.
Freshman Sarah Coyne finished second in both the 200-meter freestyle and 50-meter free finals, where she recorded a season-best time of 24.49.
The last solo event of the day saw freshman Morgan Pfaff finish with the best time for the Knights in the 400-meter individual medley as she recorded a personal-best time of 4:27.13.
The Knights swept Friday’s 1-meter diving event as Kearney led the way with six dives for a score of 274.70.
“We wanted to start the weekend as strong as we want to start the Big East, and we definitely did that,” Kearney said.