Virginia Drops Hard-Fought Meet to Florida in Season Opener
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams opened the 2009-10 season Friday with hard-fought losses to Florida at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. The Gator men defeated UVa 159-141 while the Florida women won 166.5-131.5.
Senior John Azar and junior Matt McLean paced the Cavalier men while newcomer Christine Olson led the women. All three were double event winners.
“It was a terrific meet and I was extremely pleased with how we raced,” Virginia head coach Mark Bernardino said. “This was an extraordinary talented team with a lot of veterans and for our kids to come out and get right in their grill and race them with as much energy and as much effort as the did really exceeds our expectations for this early in the season. A lot of those races came from the heart.”
Olson won 100 breast with a time of 1:03.06, followed by Katherine McDonnell, who placed second in 1:04.12. Olson then led Virginia to a 1-2-3 finish in the 200 breast, finishing in 2:15.75 ahead of teammates Claire Crippen (2:19.15) and McDonnell (2:19.59).
“It was awesome; such a great experience,” Olson said of her first college meet. “Every single heat you want to cheer and you want to watch. I was really excited and I think that’s why I did well.”
Other winners for the Cavalier women included Liz Shaw in the 200 fly (1:59.08), Lauren Perdue in the 50 free (22.88) and Mei Christensen in the 200 back (1:56.65). Lauren Smart and Shaw also went 1-2 in the 100 fly, finishing in 54.58 and 55.39 respectively.
“Lauren Smart was outstanding for our women,” Bernardino said. “Christine Olson had a great beginning to her career, as did Lauren Perdue, another first year who got after it and swam well. Mei and Kat were outstanding Liz Shaw had a solid meet too. It was just a solid team effort with everybody trying to contribute.”
“It’s always one of the most exciting meets when we swim against Florida,” Shaw said. “They are a top-5 team and I love going up against them. They always race tough and they never die. This was such a great taste of NCAAs for us and it was a great way to start off the dual meet season.”
Azar also led the Cavaliers to two consecutive sweeps in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events. In the 100, Azar clocked a time of 56.63, closely followed by Tom Casey (58.01) and Simon Norstedt (58.43). Azar, Casey and Norstedt placed 1-2-3 again in the 200 breast finishing in 2:03.01, 2:06.74 and 2:07.01 respectively.
“We love swimming against Florida because our coaches are similar and both teams have similar racing styles,” Azar said. “It’s great to go against a team that is fast this early in the season. I think we did really well. You never know how fast you are going to swim compared to how you are feeling, but you can’t let that bother you. I am happy and I want to continue to improve throughout the year.”
McLean led the way in the 1000 free (9:13.92) with junior Taylor Smith finishing second (9:22.29). McLean also placed first in the 500 free (4:27.63) and swam with Scot Robison, Peter Geissinger and David Karasek to come away victorious in the 400 free relay (3:00.52).
Scot Robison also placed first for the men in the 100 free with a time 44.37.
“Matt, John and Scot all stepped up,” Bernardino said. “I thought Matt Houser and Tom Casey, an unheralded first-year, really did a nice job. I am pleased with how our relays raced.”
On the boards, Briggy Imbriglia finished second and Alex D’Ambrosio third on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards.
Both Virginia squads are back in action on Wednesday, October 21 to take on Atlantic Coast Conference foe Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.