In their first dual meet of the season Saturday, the women’s team outscored UNC-Wilmington from the first to final event, but the men’s team leaned on their freshmen swimmers and senior diver Nick McCrory to secure the win for the Blue Devils.
Tallying 195.5 points to UNC Wilmington’s 101.5, the women’s team took several individual wins early in the meet and dominated the diving events to earn their first team victory of the season. The men’s team faced closer competition in the Seahawk Natatorium, but key performances from freshman Bradley Cline and McCrory gave Duke the 156.5 to 143.5 victory.
“It’s always great to open up the season with two wins,” head coach Dan Colella said. “We knew going in that it was going to be a pretty tight meet for the men. It was great to see a lot of these young guys stand up and come through when they were needed.”
The freshmen swimmers made significant contributions to Duke’s team victories on both the men’s and women’s sides, scoring seven of the Blue Devils' 14 individual swimming wins against the Seahawks.
“We are very excited by a lot of the performances from the younger swimmers,” Colella said. “You’re never sure how they’re going to react in competition. I think they did a great job of staying composed today when the pressure was on.”
Freshman Maddie Rusch earned her first collegiate dual meet wins with times of 1:54.98 in the 200-yard freestyle and 51.91 in the 100-yard freestyle. Leading Duke’s sweep of the top four spots in the women’s 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:03.92, freshman Brittany Friese scored her second individual victory of the day after her 2:04.88 200-yard butterfly. And beating the rest of the pool to the wall by more than seven seconds, freshman Lindsay Schlichte took first in the 1,000-yard freestyle in 10:30.88.
On the men’s side, Cline stopped the clock at 1:42.50 and 4:40.90 to secure wins in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races, respectively.
Both wins very big in turning the team score around in Duke’s favor, Colella said.
The rest of the men’s team tallied three more event wins. Senior Hunter Knight took first in two events, finishing his 100-yard breaststroke in 56.02 and his 200-yard breaststroke in 2:05.49. Coming into the wall in a time of 1:52.94, sophomore Kenny Ng earned first place in the 200-yard butterfly as freshman Michael Miller and junior Clay Sanders finished just behind to earn the sweep for Duke.
“When Wilmington had two big events early on and got themselves rolling, the 200 butterfly was monumental in swinging the momentum and getting our guys pumped up, and they just took it from there,” Colella said.
Trading event wins back and forth with the Seahawks throughout the meet, Duke’s men’s team faced nearly even team scores heading into both diving events.
McCrory led the Blue Devils to a sweep of both the 1-meter and 3-meter events, breaking his own pool record on the 1-meter board by more than 90 points with a score of 445.27 points. He scored 468.37 points in the 3-meter event, surpassing Tennessee’s Mauricio Robles’s previous pool record of 387.37.
With their first dives of the season, sophomore Deon Reid and freshman Cole Plambeck followed McCrory in second and third in both events, respectively.
“It was a team effort, with the divers dominating the boards the way they did,” Colella said. “They were huge contributors to the win today.”
Rusch, sophomore Chelsea Ye and seniors Christine Wixted and Lauren Weaver opened the meet with a 1:43.37 combined time in the 200-yard medley relay, breaking the pool record and setting the tone for the women’s side of competition.
“That was very exciting for the first event of the meet,” Colella said. “That time was probably faster than we have ever been this early in the season.”
Wixted and Weaver added three more individual wins to Duke's total. Wixted nearly broke her own pool record in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:03.18 and reached the wall first in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:06.15. Weaver dominated the 50-yard freestyle by half a second, finishing in 23.89.
Sophomore Linsay Cooper also took first in the 100-yard butterfly in a time of 57.33, just out-touching her teammate, junior Ali Horn.
Sophomore Kendall McClenney and freshman Kirby Quinn dominated the women’s diving, taking first and second in both the 1-meter and 3-meter events. McClenney scored 274.20 to win the 1-meter, and Quinn earned her first collegiate victory in the 3-meter dives with 280.87 points.