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Duke swimming looks to send seniors out on top in final home meet

Four Blue Devil seniors will swim in their final home meet, as Duke hits the pool against Harvard and South Carolina Saturday.
Four Blue Devil seniors will swim in their final home meet, as Duke hits the pool against Harvard and South Carolina Saturday.

Duke hopes to give its seniors two wins in Saturday’s tri meet with four Blue Devils competing for the last time at home.

The squad will begin competition in 2015 Saturday, taking on Harvard and South Carolina at noon in the diving well and 1 p.m. in the competition pool. Duke will have to pick up where it left off with its strong performance at the Nike Cup Invitational in November to be successful this weekend.

The Blue Devils stack up well against the Crimson and Gamecock squads, particularly in the sprint freestyles, women’s butterfly and men’s breaststroke. But the meet will be closely contested.

“We are going to have to race incredibly hard to score each and every point,” head coach Dan Colella said. “Everyone in our program is going to be challenged. We have the opportunity to win some events… and where we are strong, we need to capitalize.”

The men’s squad will start the meet at a disadvantage without a diver. Harvard senior Mike Mosca will look to claim the top score on both the 1- and 3-meter springboards. Mosca recently paired with North Carolina’s Jack Nyquist to finish fifth in the 3-meter synchronized diving competition at the U.S. Diving Winter National Championships in December and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials.

The No. 19 Crimson men’s squad also boasts strong butterfliers. Blue Devils David Armstrong and Kaz Takabayashi will be challenged to break up the top-three scoring performances Saturday.

The Harvard women will be well represented in the breaststroke, backstroke and distance freestyle events.

“Harvard on both the men and women’s side is a program that picks up some of the top recruits in the country, so they are very deep and very talented,” Colella said.

Following a disappointing start to 2015—the Gamecocks gave up the top time in all 32 events to Georgia last Saturday—the South Carolina squad will look for redemption this weekend.

The Blue Devils’ opened last year's spring semester with losses to the Gamecocks on both the men’s and women’s sides.

Sophomore Maddie Rusch hopes to lead Duke to victory with a repeat performance of two individual victories against the South Carolina squad. Rusch and freshman Leah Goldman have consistently been the squad’s top two performers in the sprint freestyles and the 100-yard butterfly.

On the men’s side, sophomore Peter Kropp will be pressured to earn big points for the Blue Devils as the favorite in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststrokes.

Colella hopes the opportunity to give an exciting send-off to team leaders will be an added incentive for the squad to perform well this weekend.

Four Blue Devils will race for the last time in Taishoff Saturday.

Stefan Knight only competed in one meet last season because of injury but has returned to bolster the squad’s sprint roster this season. Knight holds the second-fastest season top times in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, recording times of 20.71 seconds and 45.51 seconds at the Nike Cup Invitational. Tyler Toren, who specializes in backstroke and individual medley, recorded the fastest time by a Blue Devil in the 400-yard individual medley this season at the same meet—4:03.36.

Clay Sanders has been a strong presence for Duke in the butterfly events, earning his place on the program top-10 all-time list at the ACC Championships last season. His 200-yard butterfly time of 1:48.07 is the third-fastest time recorded by a Blue Devil.

Katherine Plevka, the only senior on the women’s side, missed the 2013-2014 season due to injury but has been a key contributor in the breaststroke events this season. The Charlotte, N.C., native recorded Duke’s second-fastest 200-yard breaststroke time this season at the Nike Cup Invitational, finishing in 2:20.55.

“It’s a real testament to their love of the sport to want to continue to do it with all they have gone through,” Colella said. “They have been a great part of this program for the last four years and have definitely contributed some great leadership.“

The seniors will be recognized at 12:45 p.m. before the races begin.

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