Illinois swimming and diving prepares for final home meet of season

By Drake Pena

The Illini have a lot of miles to travel before their season concludes.

With meets scheduled all around the country, ranging from Miami to Coronado, California, the Illini will embark on a cross-country tour, to face both Big Ten rivals, and unfamiliar foes like the Georgia, and Arkansas.

Head coach Sue Novitsky is looking forward to seeing how her team will fare against its opponents and the wear and tear travel will bring.

“We set it up that way because we wanted to challenge them, and give them some adversity,” Novitsky said. “They need to learn to deal with that. Things aren’t always going to be easy, and they aren’t always going to feel their best day-to-day, but the lesson they can learn is that they can still step up and still perform.”

The adversity must wait for another week however, as the Illini face their final home test on Friday at the ARC pool against in-state rival Northwestern.

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    Novitsky knows her team will have to be aggressive to be successful against a tough Wildcats team.

    “The key for this Friday is to be relentless and to just bring it every race,” Novitsky said.

    Off to its best start since 2010-2011, the team will again be looking for strong performances from sophomore Samantha Stratford, and freshman Megan Vuong. The Canadian duo combined for five total event victories in last week’s victory against Michigan State.

    Both Stratford and Vuong brought home accolades after their impressive showings last week. Stratford won Big-Ten co-swimmer of the week, and Vuong won Big-Ten Co-Freshman of the week, the first honors for the Illini on the young season.

    Stratford is hoping to add a few more top-times to her resume and keep her teams hot start going through her times her newfound role as a leader in the locker room.

    “I think it’s a really good start to the season, and we can only improve from there, but hopefully this weekend I get a few more best times, and just keep getting faster” Stratford said. “It being my second year its way easier to talk to people and be comfortable around the team, and I think during practice we all help each other out.”

    Vuong is adjusting to the collegiate level well and said she believes her teammates play a big role in her early success.

    “I feel good, I’m excited to be a part of this team,” Vuong said. “It’s been a lot of fun, and the girls have been really welcoming…it’s everyone in general, they support us in practice, and they encourage us to do better”

    Friday will be a clash of two undefeated teams. At 3-0, the Wildcats have been dominant this season, topping 200 total points in all of their meets, not allowing a single competitor to top the 100 mark.

    Novitsky said her team is going to have its best shot at Northwestern in years.

    “The past couple of years we may have had some let-ups during the meet,” Novitsky said. “We’ve been working on maintaining our focus, and staying in the present, and just controlling what we can control.

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