Illinois swimming and diving erases 15-point deficit, defeat FIU

By Drake Pena

The Illinois swimming and diving team returned to action this past weekend for a two-day meet versus Florida International University. The teams participated on Friday and Saturday in a showdown that came down to the last few events.

Head coach Sue Novitsky said her team passed up a few opportunities to earn points, however she was satisfied with her team’s resilience.

“This meet was a great test for our team,” Novitsky said. “Florida International competed very strong and really pushed us on both days. We swam solid on the first day, but were not very sharp on our details and that cost us some opportunities.”

With the win the Illini improve to 7-1. The 197-174 victory snapped FIU’s 15 regular season dual-meet streak and was the panthers first home loss since their 2012-’13 season.

Sophomore Samantha Stratford added two individual wins to her impressive stat sheet this season. She earned a first place finish in the 200 butterfly, and 200 and 400 Individual Medleys. The Canadian native is 13-15 in individual races this season.

The Illini ended day one of competition down on the scoreboard, however, Novitsky urged her team to get past the mental and physical blocks that a team can accumulate after having four meets in two weeks.

“After the first day we were down 15 points and had some work to do in order to get ourselves back into the meet,” Novitsky said. “We talked about ignoring those little annoyances, such as pain and soreness that can distract you and draw you away from your purpose and the team’s purpose. We wanted them to be scrappy, stay in the moment, be relentless and get to the next wall.”

Sophomore Ashley Aegerter helped lead the comeback capturing first place for the Illini with a time of 2 minutes and 21 seconds in the 200M breaststroke. Four events later, the relay team of seniors Sloane McDermott, Lori Lynn, freshman Megan Vuong and Stratford earned another victory for Illinois in the 400M medley relay.

Vuong continues to have a strong start to her freshman campaign, being part of two first place winning relays, in addition to one individual event victory in the 100M freestyle. The Canadian connection of her and Stratford continues to put up points for the Illini.

Novitsky credited both the swimmers and divers for last week’s victory, noting that the team will grow from the experience, and use some of the tools they learned in Big Challenge Meet on Nov. 20.

“We executed much better [on Saturday] and showed a terrific fight from start to finish,” Novitsky said. “Our divers were big for us today and competed very strong as a group. Multiple swimmers stepped up all through the event list. I am very proud of the effort over the past two days and I am looking forward to building on this experience.”

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