RU looks to impress Big Ten foes at AACs
With the regular season coming to an end, the Rutgers swimming and diving team can finally focus all its attention on the AAC Championships from Feb. 19022 in Louisville, Ky.
The Scarlet Knights have more than a week to prepare for the biggest meet of their season, which sees them facing some quality programs in No. 13 Louisville and Southern Methodist.
Following the conference championships, the Knights will officially be a part of the Big Ten conference.
While the AAC has some top-quality programs, the Big Ten consists of seven teams currently ranked in the top 25, according to NCAA.com.
The Knights competed against three Big Ten schools during the regular season but failed to register a win.
Against No. 20 Michigan and Northwestern, Rutgers lost to both teams rather easily, falling 219-81 and 198.5-101.5, respectively.
But those defeats came a day after the Knights drew a tie against Illinois, 150-150, with the team racing on little rest the following day during those losses.
Since the conference championships are the ultimate measure of a team’s true speed, the Knights have made it clear that the AAC is not the only conference they are looking to impress.
“As a smaller team we definitely come in with a chip on our shoulders,” said sophomore swimmer Morgan Pfaff. “We can hang in there, we’re ready to go, we’re ready to compete and I don’t think going to the Big Ten that we should be overlooked. … We work hard even though we’re small. We work together and we’re here to win championships, and that’s the mentality we have to have.”
During the Big East Championships last season, Rutgers finished fifth out of 10 teams. The Knights did not place as high as they hoped but did manage to have some strong performances.
Senior diver Nicole Scott took gold in the platform event, while senior Brittany Guinee and junior Greta Leberfinger set school records in the 200 butterfly and 200 breaststroke events, respectively.
Guinee, Leberfinger, senior Mary Moser and sophomore Joanna Wu were also part of the 400 medley relay team that took third place and broke a school record at the conference championships.
Although most of the returning Knights hope to leave a lasting impression entering the Big Ten, those who will not be back hope to improve on their times from last year.
“As a team, we have pretty big goals and we’re hoping to place as high as we can,” Guinee said. “Individually I’m hoping to contribute to that by making finals in all of my events and … hopefully make it NCAAs.”
For head coach Phil Spiniello, the conference championships are a chance to not only impress the Big Ten and AAC, but also showcase the program nationally as a championship contender.
“I think anytime you go to a conference meet, regardless of conference, it’s a stage to show what your program’s all about,” Spiniello said. “Everyone’s focus in on doing the best they can at the conference meet and I think we will send a message.”
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