Despite strong showings in the relays, the Blue Devils fell to Virginia before rebounding with a victory against Richmond.
Darbi Griffith / The Chronicle
Despite strong showings in the relays, the Blue Devils fell to Virginia before rebounding with a victory against Richmond.
Duke took on a tough back-to-back dual meet schedule at home in Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion with split results.

The Blue Devils fell to Virginia 187.5-98.5 on Friday, but returned Saturday morning to defeat Richmond 160-131.

The Cavaliers are the second-highest ranked women’s team in the ACC, coming in at ninth in the nation in the latest College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll.

“When we have swum teams like Virginia in the past, it’s been hard to get emotionally pumped up,” head coach Dan Colella said. “I thought they did a really great job of not backing down. It was a disappointing weekend down in Columbia. For them to turn around and come up against a team that is ranked higher than South Carolina and to able to perform the way the did was just really great.”

Turning in a time of 23.41 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle, senior Lauren Weaver out-touched Ellen Thomas of Virginia by a little more than a tenth of a second.

Weaver also led off the 200-yard freestyle relay in 23.27 seconds. Her teammates Chelsea Ye, Francesca Tocci and Maddie Rusch extended her lead, finishing in a time of 1:33.37 and breaking the Taishoff Aquatic Pavilion record.

“I’m someone who swims well under pressure, and I was really pumped up for this meet,” Weaver said. “I had no idea that we had broken it until a few minutes later. It’s really exciting especially because Francesca Tocci just had surgery a few months ago. To see her make a recovery and be able to swim on that relay was really exciting.”

Although Virginia posted many top-four finishes throughout the meet, the Blue Devils were able to take a few more individual wins.

Rusch won the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 56.24 seconds, holding on to her lead of nearly a second at 50 yards.

Duke also earned first and second in the women’s 1-meter springboard. Sophomore Kendall McClenney recorded 267.75 points, followed by her teammate freshman Kirby Quinn with 264.60 points. The pair took third and fourth place on the 3-meter board, respectively.

Despite the loss, the team showed improvement after tired performances at South Carolina in early January and competed with much more energy.

“I’m very proud of them,” Colella said. “To beat a top-10 program in a sprint relay like that is significant. I think our sprint relays are going to be incredibly strong when we get to ACCs… I have no doubt that this group is going to surprise some people when we get down to Greensboro.”

With a matchup with Richmond less than 24 hours away, the team's energy carried over into the second dual meet of the weekend—this time the Blue Devils came out on top.

“We knew that we had to come in hard for the Spiders,” Ye said. “The team is so great that it’s really hard not to have energy. With all of us combined, it’s really easy to just get pumped and ready to race.”

Ye anchored Duke’s 200-yard medley B relay, turning in a time of 23.35 seconds in her 50-yard freestyle split to pass Richmond’s A relay and give the Blue Devils a one-two finish in the first event of the meet.

Duke continued to built momentum and outscore the Spiders as the meet progressed. The Blue Devils took first through third in the 100-yard backstroke and 50- and 100-yard freestyles.

Weaver touched first in the 50-yard freestyle for the second day with a time of 23.46 seconds, and Rusch won the 100-yard freestyle in 51.83 seconds. Ye took second in both events.

Colella was pleased that the team was able to race so well after a disappointing loss the day before.

“Credit goes to the ladies on having great determination and energy to turn it around,” he said. “We just encouraged them and told them we can’t let off the gas pedal here. From start to finish, they were really engaged and did an absolutely terrific job.”