The Blue Devils started the season well last weekend in Virginia, and will look to make an even bigger splash in their first home meet of the year this weekend against two Power-5 opponents.
The No. 19 Duke women will host No. 4 N.C. State and the Blue Devil men will take on Northwestern Saturday at Taishoff Aquatics Pavilion. Diving will begin at 10 a.m., with the rest of the meet commencing at 11 a.m.
The Blue Devil women went 3-0 last week against Virginia Tech, William & Mary and West Virginia, with the Duke men besting the Tribe and Mountaineers but falling to the host Hokies. The Blue Devils got contributions from veterans and new faces alike to start the campaign on a high note after Hurricane Matthew delayed their season opener by two weeks, and will look for a similar formula this week against two deep teams.
"It was just a really great overall team effort,” head coach Dan Colella told GoDuke.com after last week's meet. “Probably one of the better meets we’ve had in some time, just from top to bottom.”
Another top performance from the Duke women should make for a high level of competition in a top-20 matchup with the Wolfpack Saturday. N.C. State won its first dual meet of the season last Saturday against Wisconsin, posting the top time in 16 of the 18 events. As is the case for the Blue Devils, the Wolfpack's 200- and 400-yard medley relays are a focal point for the team.
Last week the 200-yard medley relay group of Elise Haan, Kayla Brumbaum, Krista Duffield and Ky-Lee Perry set a pool record, as did the 400-yard medley relay team of Alexia Zevnik, Perry, Natalie Labonge and Courtney Caldwell.
Duke's 200-yard medley relay team of sophomore Maddie Hess, senior Ashleigh Shanley, freshman Alyssa Marsh and senior Maddie Rusch also won the 200-yard medley relay at its meet with a time of 1:40.70 last Saturday—just barely two seconds slower than the Wolfpack’s record-setting time. The quartet also excelled in individual events, with Rusch winning the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, Shanley taking first in the 200-yard butterfly and Hess taking third in the 100-yard backstroke.
The Blue Devils hope that group can deliver again in the pool, and that senior Kirby Quinn can get the team off to a good start on the diving board in the morning. Quinn earned a career-best score of 283.80 last weekend en route to a first-place finish.
“Kirby, as a senior, her first time winning the 1-meter in a dual meet competition, couldn’t come at a better time,” Colella said. “That was really critical for us.”
Duke will also need standout performances against a Northwestern club that saw even more success than Duke did to begin its season, sweeping a quad meet at the University of Chicago 3-0 and beating Eastern Michigan in its season opener.
At the quad meet, the Wildcats' 200-yard medley relay team of Nick Petersen, Almog Olshtein, Arjun Sharma and Gage Kohner came first overall and set the tone early for Northwestern. Senior Jordan Wilimovsky was also a key factor, swimming in four races—the maximum which is allowed for a single swimmer, and winning the 200-yard freestyle.
The Blue Devils themselves have a formidable medley relay quartet of sophomore Max St. George, senior Peter Kropp, senior Michael Miller and sophomore Yusuke Legard. The team boasts NCAA championship experience and won the 400-yard medley relay last Friday night and won the 200-yard medley relay the next morning with a time of 1:29.05, a full five seconds faster than Northwestern’s winning time of 1:34.19. For the Duke men to do well this weekend, the same group needs to have another big week in the relay and individual events as well.
“To win that 400 medley relay last night and open up winning the 200 medley relay, we’re kind of picking up where we left off last year with those events,” Colella said.
St. George and Legard in particular are capable of racking up points for the Blue Devils in individual events, as George is the team’s top backstroker and won the 100-yard event last weekend, and Legard took second in the 50-yard freestyle. The sophomore tandem will lead the Blue Devils back into competition after Duke was unable to keep pace with the Hokies last weekend.
But if the Blue Devils get even more standout performances and continue improving on their times in each event, Duke could be in line for another big weekend in its first of three 2016-17 home meets.
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