Oct. 26, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Spirits were high on the Green Wave bench moments before the Tulane University women's swimming and diving team was set to square off against in-state foe LSU on Friday evening in the Reily Student Recreation Center Natatorium.
With an 11-member senior class slated to make their final appearance before the home crown, a sense of responsibility rose from the Green Wave underclassmen as they vowed to help the group that helped restart the program four years ago go out on a high note. Tulane posted five second-place showings, including 2-3 finishes in four events, but it was not enough as the Green Wave fell to the Lady Tigers, 174-69.
"It's hard to be happy with the end result, but I was very pleased with the way our team stuck together, with the way our team competed and the way our team had each other's backs," Tulane interim head coach T.J. Natal said. "They were always supporting each other and they were doing all the little things that we could in every race.
"I think the biggest thing we take from it is that when we come to compete it's not about who we're completing. First and foremost, it's about us. We need to make sure that we're focused and that we're mentally prepared. It's not that we're prepared to swim any particular team or person. It's making sure that we're prepared as a team and as individuals to just get up and race. Who we race against is secondary. Making sure we're prepared is our primary concern."
Tulane posted its first 2-3 finish in the opening event as freshman Elizabeth Cook and Mia Schachter joined forces with seniors Kayla Alf-Huynh and Kristine Gu to post a 1:45.50 in the 200 medley relay while sophomores Vanessa Loewen and Claire Schelske combined with senior Grace Tarka and junior Rachel Ranson to come in third at 1:50.27.
The Green Wave also got 2-3 showings by freshmen Roni Meyer (10:30.28) and Rachel Schneider (10:31.90) in the 1000 free, Alf-Huynh (24.44) and Gu (24.45) in the 50 free, as well as Schachter (52.74) and Ranson (52.79) in the 100 free.
Also posting second-place finishes for Tulane were the foursome of Schachter, Alf-Huynh, Gu and Ranson in the 400 free relay. Ranson made up significant ground with an anchor split of 51.79 but was out-touched by seven-one hundredth of a second at the wall as the Green Wave unit posted a mark of 3:32.84.
The highlight of the meet, however, came during the first diving break when the senior class of Alf-Huynh, Gu, Tarka, Kristin Ates, Gisele Calderon, Jillian Daleiden, Allie Evans, Rebekah Harris, Emily Needham, Lauren Pfohl and Elizabeth Whitaker were honored with a special ceremony.
The 11 seniors were the initial classed that signed with the Green Wave for the 2008-09 season when Tulane brought its swimming and diving program back to varsity status after a three-year hiatus caused by the financial aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"I think there were a lot of emotions out there today, especially as the girls were being announced," Natal said. "The tears began to come and you could see them all reflect on their time here so far. Learning to compete with those emotions can be a little bit of a roller coaster, but I think they did a good job of bringing it back in and performing."
Ranson led the Tulane effort in the 200 free with a time of 1:54.98 to finish third, as did Alf-Huynh in the 100 fly (58.49), Meyer in the 500 free (5:09.32) and Schachter in the 100 breast (1:05.43).
Cook and fellow freshman Holly Grender both posted fourth-place showings in the 100 back and 200 IM with respective times of 59.06 and 2:14.12. Junior Sadie Eicher led the way for the Green Wave in diving, scoring a 206.10 to finish fourth in the one-meter springboard and a 220.12 to come in fifth in the three-meter elevation.
"I was happy with the way the girls stuck with it and did let the score beat them or get to them," Natal added. "A lot of our top finishers were underclassmen, more specifically they were freshmen. When we were leading in the 200 medley relay, that was back-to-back freshmen leading over LSU upperclassmen. I think that gives us a lot of hope moving forward and shows that our freshmen are rising to the occasion right now."
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Nov. 3, when they travel to Nashville, Tenn., to square off against Western Kentucky and host Vanderbilt. From there, the Tulane swimmers will close out the fall portion of the fall schedule at the UH Cougar Classic in Houston from Nov. 15-17, while the divers will participate in the Wildcat Diving Invitational in Tucson, Ariz., from Nov. 16-18.