Despite winning both the men’s and women’s 200-yard medley relays in what was an exciting opening to the meet, both the men’s and women’s teams came up short against the reigning ACC champion Virginia Sunday in Charlottesville, Va.
Blue Devil head coach Dan Colella said he was pleased, however, with his team’s performance against a deep Virginia team.
“We knew going in that UVA has traditionally been one of the strongest teams in the ACC for the last five, six years,” Colella said. “We knew going into the meet that we had some areas where we were going to be strong…. We probably won more events this weekend than we had in any previous meets against Virginia.” Colella noted that the Blue Devils are still in the process of adding depth to their program. As only a partially funded Division I sport, competing against programs that are fully funded is in large part responsible for discrepancies in swimming level, he added.
“We are strong in certain areas and in the process of really trying to build our depth,” Colella said. “We had terrific fall recruiting. We have 24 recruits for next year. All in all we were very pleased with the performances and when you talk about UNC, it’s the same situation. We know that we are going to be able to go into the meet and win events.”
The Blue Devils saw notable individual performances on the weekend. Duke’s Ben Hwang recorded his third NCAA ‘B’ cut of the season when he notched a time of 20.11 in the 50 freestyle. The senior also registered a win in the 100 freestyle with a time of 45.05, which marked his second-fastest swim of the year. Colella praised the tremendous impact Hwang has had on Duke’s swim program not only this season, but also in his past three seasons.
“[Hwang] is a great leader in the pool and also in terms of encouraging the underclassmen to push through and really reach for the stars,” Colella said. “He is someone who has the potential to win events at ACC’s and to qualify for NCAA’s. He has been a great team member and has definitely represented Duke in such a positive light.”
London Olympic bronze medalist Nick McCrory, who returned to collegiate competition just a few weeks ago, contributed a strong performance for the Blue Devils in the diving well. The junior finished in second place in the 1- and 3-meter springboards.
Fellow Olympic medalist Abby Johnston did not compete in order to nurse a shoulder injury.
Duke will travel a few miles down the road to take on North Carolina Saturday at noon. The Tar Heel women’s team ranks third in the conference while Duke ranks fifth. The North Carolina men rank first in the ACC, and Duke sits at eighth.
Although both Blue Devil teams rank below North Carolina, Duke will look to build on its strong showing Sunday to take down the 22nd nationally ranked men’s team and 16th nationally ranked women’s team in what will likely be a heated battle.