Illinois swimming and diving falls to 8-3 on the dual season

By Drake Pena

Saturday’s loss to conference rival Nebraska marked the team’s second consecutive loss on the road, which comes after the team started the season 8-1.EJ

Illinois only hosted four meets at the ARC pool this season, where the Illini were 3-1, with their only loss coming to Northwestern.EJ

Head coach Sue Novitsky acknowledged some of her team’s missed chances, and how the rough senior-day setting may have played a factor in the team’s defeat.EJ

“This was another very close meet,” Novitsky said. “We had our opportunities and did not take advantage of those situations. Nebraska came out and competed very strong, which we knew they would on their senior day. It was a very challenging and loud environment and I think that took us out of our game a bit early on. I felt that we finished the meet strong and that we did refocus, dig deep and compete.”

Illinois picked up six event victories on the day, with sophomore Samantha Stratford, and junior Amelia Schilling each coming away with two victories. Schilling won the 200 and 500 freestyle, and Stratford won the 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley.EJ

Stratford is arguably the team’s main contributor on the season, leading the team in event victories, and embracing her new-found role as a team leader in the locker room.

“It being my second year its way easier to talk to people and be comfortable around the team,” Stratford said. “I think during practice we all help each other out.”

The Illini started the day winning two of the first three events, starting with junior Gabby Stecker and her victory in the 1,000-yard freestyle, followed by Schilling’s victory in the 200-yard freestyle.EJ

The early victories just weren’t enough to propel the team to victory however, as Illinois ultimately ended the day with a 162-138 defeat.EJ

Novitsky put a strong emphasis on Illinois’ next few practices, encouraging her team to say focused, and continue the road-warrior spirit the team has embraced all season, especially with the Big Ten championships being less than a month away.

“Now we need to go back and make sure we practice strong and work on putting the pieces into place each opportunity,” Novitsky said. “It is extremely important that we stay focus and tough everyday as we head into the championship portion of our schedule.”

Up next on the schedule for the Illini is Arkansas.EJ Illinois will get a chance to face SEC competition for the second time this season, after the divers went down to Georgia early in the season.

Before this season, Illinois had very little familiarity with SEC schools. Prior to the Georgia diving meet, the last time Illinois competed with an SEC school was the 2005-2006 season, when the Illini met with Kentucky.EJ

Illinois ultimately lost that meet 179-119, setting up next week’s tilt with Arkansas as a shot at redemption, and an opportunity to send a message that the Illini and their 8-3 record are for real.

[email protected]