Oct. 3, 2009
NEW ORLEANS - For those who just watch the scoreboard, the Tulane University women's swimming and diving team came up short in a 176-135 loss to cross-town rival University of New Orleans on Saturday afternoon at the Reily Student Recreation Center Natatorium.
For head coach Lena Guarriello, her 18-member team and the University community, the Green Wave won simply because they swam as Saturday marked the return of the Tulane program following a three-year layoff. Tulane, which won the 2005 Conference USA Championship, suspended the team's operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Green Wave have not fielded a team since the 2005-06 season until now.
"It was really exciting," Guarriello said. "I think the girls did a great job. Our inexperience showed a little bit, but they swam with a lot of heart, they swam with energy and they did really well against a more experienced team.
"Our goal for today's meet was to just swim smart. We wanted to swim well and put all of the technical things that we've worked on in practice into our races. Overall, I think we did a pretty good job of that. Our flyers had a great meet and our backstrokers were amazing. I think they were the ones that had the most success with putting the technical work from practice into their races and it showed."
Freshman backstrokers Lauren Pfohl and Grace Tarka finished 1-2 in the 100 back with times of 59.09 and 59.15, and Pfohl posted another individual win in the 200 back with a mark of 2:06.61. Tarka, meanwhile, won the 100 fly with a time of 58.28, followed by junior Kylie Kastes at 59.21.
In addition to the three individual wins and the pair of runner-up showings, the Green Wave also posted second-place finishes in the 200 medley relay, 1,000 free, 200 fly, 50 free, 500 free, 400 individual medley and 400 free relay.
The quartet of Tarka, Samantha Davis, Kastes and Elizabeth Whitaker scored Tulane's first points of the day with a 1:51.44 showing in the 200 medley relay while Bolton Harris and Emily Needham finished second and third in the 1,000 free with times of 10:59.66 and 11:05.17, respectively.
Kastes finished second in the 200 fly at 2:08.57 and Gisele Calderon was one-one hundredth of a second behind to finish third. Kayla Alf-Huhn was second in the 50 free with a time of 25.17 and Allie Evans finished runner-up in the 500 free at 5:10.71.
Whitaker and Cunningham finished 2-3 in the 400 IM with respective times of 4:40.41 and 4:42.39. Kastes, Pfohl, Whitaker and Evans combined to clock a 3:38.43 to finish second in the 400 free relay while the unit of Kristine Gu, Alf-Huynh, Calderon and Takra posted a third-place finish with 3:39.95 on the clock.
Tulane also got nine points from sophomore diver Michelle Fryar, who posted six dives from the one-meter springboard. Fryar originally enrolled at Tulane as a non-student-athlete in Fall 2008 out of Fort Collins, Colo., before joining the team for the 2009-10 season.
"There were a lot of positives," Guarriello said of Saturday's meet. "We know what we need to work on now, which is great. We see where our strengths and weaknesses are. And let's not forget that we swam against a good team. We got our nerves out of the way and we'll just move forward from here."
Another positive to come out of the UNO contest was the crowd, which showed up in full force and full throat as a large, boisterous crowd of well over 100 attended Tulane's first on-campus meet since Jan. 29, 2005. In addition to friends, family and a host of Tulane Athletics staff members, the crowd featured a handful of former Green Wave letterwinners.
Some notables in attendance from the original era of Tulane swimming and diving were Mike Hogg - clinical professor of business administration and Tulane's Faculty Athletics Representative Mike Hogg, who addressed the crowd prior to the start of the meet - and Lucy Riess. Former letterwinners from Tulane's most recent teams (2003-06) included 2004 Olympic participant Linda McEachrane along with Elizabeth Carey, Sarah Dichary, Victoria Givens, Katherine McCoy, Amanda Williams and Leeann Laing, who currently serves as Tulane's swimming and diving's sports administrator.
"The crowd was amazing," Guarriello said. "We had more people here than I've ever seen at a Tulane meet before, which was great. We had a lot of alums - older alums from the teams that were here before 1990 and a lot of the girls who restarted the program in 2003. It was great to have their support. We were out there not just swimming for us, but also swimming for them."
The Green Wave return to action on Friday, Oct. 9, when they travel to Denton, Texas, to participate in the North Texas Relays. From there, Tulane will square off against the Mean Green in a dual-meet the following day before returning to Louisiana to play LSU on Friday, Oct. 30, in Baton Rouge.