Oct. 19, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University women's swimming and diving team will look for its first 2-0 start since restarting the program when the Green Wave take the pool against North Texas on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Reily Student Recreation Center Natatorium. The meet is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. and admission is free.
The last time the Green Wave opened with a 2-0 record was during the 2004-05 campaign when Tulane finished 16-3, won the Akron Fall Championship and the UNO Invitational and claimed the program's first Conference USA title. Ironically, that was also the last time the Green Wave defeated North Texas as the Mean Green have won the last three head-to-head meetings.
"Tomorrow will be our first home meet against North Texas and I think it'll shape up to be a really close meet," Tulane interim head coach T.J. Natal said. "When you look at the two teams on paper, they're very even. Whoever would score the meet out before hand, it would really be up to them on who they favor. I think we're even in some events and each of us have our strengths in other events.
"I'd definitely say that there is a rivalry (between Tulane and North Texas). This was a meet that we highlighted at the very beginning of the season. It's one that we want to win and one that we felt we should have won last year but we let it slip away and they won it pretty handily."
Last season, Tulane dropped a 175-123 decision to the Mean Green on Oct. 15 in the Reily Nat. Prior to that, North Texas came away with a 140-102 victory on Oct. 9, 2010 and a 173-118 win on Oct. 10, 2009. Both of those meets were in Denton, Texas. The Green Wave did, however, win the first two meetings with UNT, downing the Mean Green 73-38 on Nov. 15, 2003, and 206-92 on Nov. 6, 2004.
Those results are all now ancient history as Tulane is under its first season under Natal's direction and feature a team ranging in experience from freshmen to seniors for the first time since 1990. In its first meet of the year, the Green Wave rolled past Arkansas-Little Roc, 154.5-69.5. In that meet, Tulane posted top times in all 11 swimming events and half of the diving elevations at the Donaghey Center Natatorium.
Also posting individual wins for Tulane were senior Kristine Gu and the freshmen duo of Elizabeth Cook and Holly Grender. In diving action, junior Sadie Eicher and freshman Maren Kjell posted 1-2 finishes in the one-meter springboard. In the three-meter, Eicher finished second while Kjell was third.
"The team performed very well against Arkansas (Little-Rock)," Natal said. "We went in with the mentality that we were going to compete and our ultimate goal was to win the meet, but I think the girls kind of shocked themselves with how well we performed. That meet gave us some momentum and re-energized us to have a good week and a half to two weeks of training leading up to this meet. It just kind of helped to bring some momentum and high spirits into this meet."
This time around, Tulane will also have senior Kayla-Alf-Huynh and Grace Tarka on hand after the pair missed the season opener due to academic responsibilities. Alf-Huynh has earned All-Conference USA on five occasions as an individual and three more times in relay action.
Tarka, meanwhile, holds the No. 5 individual time in Tulane history in the 200 IM, the No. 7 individual time in the 100 fly and the No. 10 individual time in the 100 back. In addition, she teamed with Alf-Huynh to set a Tulane record in the 200 medley relay and also shares the No. 2 overall spot in the 400 relay listings.
"I think both of them are very excited to get in the water and show what they can do," Natal said. "They've put a lot of good training in and I think them being there also motivates everyone else. Kayla is definitely our big stud as far as we can move her around and she has a lot of flexibility. She can swim a lot of events and that opens up other areas for girls to step it up in their events. There are a lot of high expectations going around the girls themselves, and as a coaching staff we're hyping up those big expectations."
North Texas comes to town 1-0 on the season as well after defeating UALR, 154-77, back on Oct. 5. The Mean Green also came in second out of five teams at the Arkansas Relays one day later.
The meet against North Texas is the first of two-straight home contests for Tulane as the Green Wave will play host to in-state rival LSU on Friday, Oct. 26, in the Reily Center. During that competition, Tulane will honor the senior class of Alf-Huynh, Tarka, Kristin Ates, Gisele Calderon, Jillian Daleiden, Allie Evans, Kristine Gu, Rebekah Harris, Emily Needham, Lauren Pfohl and Elizabeth Whitaker.
Those 11 seniors were the first class to sign with Tulane following the re-instatement of the program back in 2009. The Tulane/LSU meet is slated to begin at 6 p.m., and like all home Green Wave meets, admission will be free.