Although the waters of Sheerr Pool are usually kept at a balmy 79 degrees, Penn swimming will try to heat things up even more this weekend.
On Friday, the men’s team (1-0) will open its home slate with a rivalry matchup against Columbia. Then, on Saturday the women will be joining the men in competition as both teams face Villanova.
Over the course of the weekend, both teams will be challenged by their opponents, albeit in different ways. For the men’s squad, the tougher meet undoubtedly comes on Friday against the Lions (0-1). Last season Penn topped Columbia at Ivy Championships, but the dual meet was another story. Despite battling through all 16 disciplines in the pool and on the diving boards, the Lions handed the Quakers a close 159.5-136.5 loss.
For the women (2-0), Villanova presents a unique challenge in that its roster is comprised of scholarship athletes. Unlike the teams in the Ancient Eight, the Wildcats (5-0) can offer such scholarships to their recruits, making the caliber of incoming and current swimmers that much higher. Due to Title IX, however, their male component team (0-4) is not funded through scholarships, making the playing field for recruiting much more level with that at Penn.
Last weekend, the men’s team recorded a decisive win over UMBC in its first meet of the season, tallying a score of 175-117. Adding insult to injury, the Quakers broke two of the Retrievers’ pool records, with a 200-yard medley relay time of 1:32.43 and a 400-yard freestyle relay time of 3:03.88. Star senior Eric Schultz, who would also individually triumph in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, anchored Penn’s medley relay team with a strong swim of 20.12.
Schultz and fellow senior captain Chris Swanson, who captured first place in the 1,000-yard freestyle against UMBC, are no strangers to success. The two are picking up right where they left off last season, when they both recorded several first place finishes at the Ivy League Championships and went on to participate at the NCAA Division I Championships.
While they look to repeat these accomplishments at the end of the season, coach Mike Schnur is confident that ambition will not be the downfall of his seniors.
“They’re consistent. They’re consistent because they work hard, and they’re seniors, and they’re talented,” Schnur said. “I expect both of them to win every time they swim. I don’t expect either of them to lose to anybody in our league.”
The women’s team possesses talent of its own, which the Quakers hope will be on full display against the Wildcats.
Sophomore Virginia Burns was named Ivy League Swimmer of the Week by CollegeSwimming.com for her performances against UMBC and Columbia. She tallied five individual victories in total, clocking winning times in the 100-, 200- and 500-yard freestyles. Junior Rochelle Dong impressed as well, scoring four individual victories over the weekend.
The Red and Blue will need all the help they can get, as the Wildcats boast an impressive squad.
“Against Villanova, we’ll have some really terrific competition,” commented Schnur. “They have a terrific 500 girl and a terrific 200 girl. They have a really strong women’s program. They’re fully funded with 14 full scholarships, so it’s a good test for us outside the Ivy League.”
Wildcat freshman Darby Goodwin, just named the Big East Female Swimmer of the Week, will certainly present a challenge for the Quakers. She recently defeated Rutgers’ All-American Joanna Wu in the 200-yard backstroke, ensuring her team remained undefeated on the season.
Penn’s teams will try to maintain their own perfect records in their first home meets of the season. Schnur is excited about the return to the friendly confines of Sheerr Pool.
“The biggest advantage [to swimming at home] is no travel. Sitting on a bus tightens you up,” said Schnur. “And, we know our pool. We know the walls. We know the blocks. We’re always very good at home.”
With that in mind, the Quakers hope to bring some extra energy to their home debut. Look for the water to feel a little warmer as Penn tries to burn through the competition.
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