Illinois swim and dive suffers second loss of dual season

By Drake Pena

Tweet: [email protected] end road trip with 1-1 split

Conference competition has been the Achilles heel of the Illinois swim and dive team this season.

The two losses on the Illini’s record both stem from Big Ten competition. The first was an early-season loss to in-state foe Northwestern, the second comes recently in last week’s defeat to Iowa.

The Illini fell 174.5-125.5 giving the team their worst loss on the season in terms of point deficit, marking the teams first loss since October.

Head coach Sue Novitsky knows that her team ended up behind on the scoreboard, but wasn’t unhappy with her swimmers effort. 

“Even though we came out behind in the points, the team fought hard all the way through the meet,” Novitsky said. “Many of the races were decided in the last stroke and unfortunately we came out on the losing side in a number of those chances. There were four races where the difference between first and second place was less than two tenths of a second. Iowa really pushed us and that was exactly the type of meet that we needed to be in today.”

Winning four of the last five events in the meet, Illinois attempted a comeback toward the end, but it was too little, too late — the deficit was just too much to overcome.

Junior Gabbie Stecker was the Illini’s best performer, aiding in two of their five victories on the day, winning the 500 meter freestyle, and being part of the winning 400 meter freestyle relay team.

The loss came a day after Illinois was able to put away Iowa State with a 164.5-135.5 win. The win gave the Illini their eighth victory of the dual meet season, and their sixth on the road, giving them an impressive 6-1 record away from the ARC pool.

Sophomore Samantha Stratford and junior Amelia Schilling combined for four of the team’s nine event victories, taking the top spots in the 1,000 meter freestyle, 200 meter IM, 500 meter freestyle, and 200 meter freestyle.

Novitsky was happy with her team’s ability to shake off the rust after a prolonged stretch without competition.

“Overall this was a very solid meet coming off our almost two-month break from competition,” Novitsky said. “One of the highlights of the meet was the strength of our relay performances; we put together some good combinations and they executed very well.”

The Illini and their 8-2 record will get one more shot at conference competition in next week’s meet with Nebraska.

Illinois has fared well against Nebraska in the past, winning last year’s meet in commanding fashion with a 171-129 victory. This year however, the Cornhuskers have home field advantage swimming at the Devaney Natatorium, where Nebraska holds a 2-1 record on the season.

After the team’s rough loss, Novitsky is already looking ahead, focusing on the team’s upcoming meet, and the looming B1G ten championships, which are now less than a month away.

“Now we go back to work and clean some things up and take advantage of our next opportunity to compete next weekend,” Novitsky said.

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