Oct. 25, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University women's swimming and diving team returns to action on Friday, Oct. 26, when the Green Wave play host to in-state rival LSU in the Reily Student Recreation Center Natatorium. The meet is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and admission is free.
While the Wave will look to improve on their 1-1 record and bounce back from a tough defeat at the hands of North Texas a week ago against the nationally-ranked Tigers, it will be an emotional day as Tulane's 11-member senior class will take the pool for the final time in front of the home crowd on Friday night.
The group of Kayla Alf-Huynh, Kristin Ates, Gisele Calderon, Jillian Daleiden, Allie Evans, Kristine Gu, Rebekah Harris, Emily Needham, Lauren Pfohl, Grace Tarka and Elizabeth Whitaker will be honored with a special ceremony during a break in the action as the pool is set up for its first diving competition.
"It'll definitely be a special meet tomorrow night with it being our last home meet and it being Senior Day, especially since this group of seniors was the first class that really brought our program back," Tulane interim head coach T.J. Natal said. "These girls deserve a lot of credit for where we are now as a program and where we will be in the future. If they wouldn't have had the guts, taken a leap of faith and helped Tulane start the program back up, then we wouldn't be where we are now. We also wouldn't be where we hope to be in the future without them as well."
The senior class - the first four-year group to swim for the Green Wave since 1990 - have been a big reason for Tulane's 1-1 start so far during the young 2012-13 season. The Tulane effort, however, has been greatly aided by a group of talented freshmen as well as the continuing development of the Green Wave's sophomore and junior classes.
During the first two meets of the year, Tulane has posted 16 first-place showings, 19 second-place finishes and 13 third-place touches in individual events. The Wave, however, will be going up against a formidable opponent on Friday as LSU comes to town 2-1 on the year and ranked the No. 21 team in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America's preseason poll.
The Lady Tigers opened the year with a 64-38 home win over Centenary on Sept. 22 and a 181-80 decision over Vanderbilt on Oct. 10 in Nashville, Tenn., and will be looking to bounce back from a 218.5-78.5 defeat at the hands of Auburn last weekend in Alabama. In that meet, LSU freshman Cassie Weil broke the school record in the three-meter springboard with a score of 372.68 to claim SEC Female Diver of the Week recognition.
"If you look strictly at the numbers, I think you would probably give LSU the advantage coming in based on times," Natal said. "But when you break it down event by event, I think we match up pretty well in certain events and others will be a challenge for us. It will be good for the team to experience a little higher level of competition considering LSU is an SEC team and a highly-ranked program overall. I'd like for us to keep moving forward in our progress that we've made throughout the season and keep getting better at the specific things we've been working on."
The Lady Tigers have been paced this season by a core that includes six returning NCAA qualifiers from a year ago. Amber Carter leads LSU in the sprint events and the 100 fly, and her 23.24 in the 50 free ranks 10th in the nation in the early portion of the season. Torrey Bussey leads in the breaststroke and IM, and her 200 breast mark ranks 21st among NCAA Division I swims.
Tulane, meanwhile, is spearheaded by a junior Rachel Ranson, who has posted four individual victories and anchored three relay teams that posted top times in the respective meets. In last Saturday's meet against North Texas - a contest the Green Wave dropped 158.5-141.5 - Tulane posted 1-2 finishes in five different events. Ranson and Pfohl did so in the 200 free, Calderon and Needham posted the top two times of the meet in the 200 fly, Gu (24.46) and Alf-Huynh followed suit in the 50 free, while Ranson and Gu did the same in the 100 fly. Junior Sadie Eicher led all divers in the one-meter springboard.
"I think one thing that makes elite athletes elite is the ability to harness what you call nervous energy or excitement and use that to perform above the level where they're at," Natal added. "That's what makes a top athlete where they're at. They can take that energy and deal with that nervousness, focus it in and centralize it to better perform and be better athletes."
Following Friday's meet against LSU, the Green Wave get back in the pool on Saturday, Nov. 3, when they travel to Nashville, Tenn., to square off against Western Kentucky and host Vanderbilt. The showdown against LSU is the first of two head-to-head meeting between the two programs this year as Tulane will compete against the Lady Tigers along with Conference USA foes Houston and Rice from Jan. 25-26 in Baton Rouge, La.