Rutgers takes down Big Ten foe Illinois to highlight weekend of meets

The Rutgers swimming and diving team traveled to Illinois this past weekend for two days of fierce competition.

On Friday, the Scarlet Knights competed in a tri-meet with Illinois and Northwestern. The following day the team traveled to a different location two and a half hours away to Evanston, Illinois in a quad-meet with Northwestern, Illinois-Chicago and Chicago.

In the first tri-meet of the season, Rutgers shined by securing four event wins and splitting the matchups with Big Ten rivals Illinois and Northwestern, 1-1. The Knights cruised by Illinois with a score of 158-140 but fell to Northwestern with 186-114.

In the 200-yard butterfly, junior Francesca Stoppa set an ARC pool record with a time of 2:01.55 in the event. Her teammate, sophomore Federica Greco, finished right behind her in second place with a finals time of 2:02.63. Stoppa led the entire race from start to finish, and on all four turns, she was ahead of the pack.

Head coach Petra Martin commented on the performance of Stoppa and what it meant to have a pool record performance.

”When we are at meets like this, we are not looking at what the pool record is or what the record board says. It's just about executing the race the way we wanted to execute it,” Martin said. “If she didn't break the record and swam the way she did, we would still be happy with it.”

Another junior from Rutgers shined on her first day of competition for the 2017-18 season, Vera Koprivova, winning the 200-yard backstroke. She flew by the competition by hitting the wall at 2:01.50, eclipsing Northwestern freshman Nicole Aarts, who finished with 2:05.37.

In the 100-yard butterfly, the Knights once again took home the victory, with Greco winning the four-length race. She got revenge by finishing just ahead of her teammate, Stoppa, and touched the wall at 55.86 seconds.

Senior Addison Walkowiak led the competition in the 1-meter dive event. At first, her seed score locked her into a runner-up position, but she was then able to pull out the victory for the event with a final score of 288.05. She edged out Northwestern junior Olivia Rosendahl, who finished as the runner-up with a score of 280.30.

The 400-yard freestyle medley relay team consisted of both Koprivova and Greco, accompanied by senior Larissa Neilan and sophomore Clare Lawlor. They finished with a final time of 3:48.33, narrowly losing out to Northwestern, who tallied a time of 3:47.44.

On Saturday, Rutgers defeated both Chicago and Illinois-Chicago with scores of 207-88 and 183-114, respectively, in a quad meet at Northwestern. The Knights did not score against Northwestern as they had competed against each other the day before.

Koprivova and Stoppa continued their domination of the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard butterfly races. They took first place in both events, touching the wall at 57.49 and 2:02.96, respectively.

Martin spoke on her team's performances on Saturday and the positives that came out of winning against both teams.

“We had a lot of swims that were actually faster than yesterday, even after all the travel that we did,” Martin said. “We had some kids that definitely improved on some of the things that we talked to them about, on the day before. So it was good. We were happy with it.”

Lawlor also contributed with a win in the 100-yard freestyle. She led the entire race and finished with a time of 51.62, besting junior Lexie Joy of Illinois-Chicago.

Martin spoke on what the team needs to improve on most, with the relay starts being the main focus moving forward.

“We definitely want to see a lot better job of our relay starts, we were a little slow this morning,” Martin said. “(We) got better on the last relay but we are going to have to work on that a little more.”

Rutgers returns to action in its first home meet of the season, hosting a five-team competition with Pittsburgh, Villanova, Seton Hall and Georgetown on November 3 and 4. The meet will be held at the Rutgers Aquatic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey.

For updates on the Rutgers swimming and diving teams, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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