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Streaks broken: Duke swimming and diving men and women earn historic wins at North Carolina Saturday afternoon

<p>The Blue Devil men had not beaten North Carolina since 1939 and the women had not knocked off the Tar Heels in program history before Saturday's triumphs.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devil men had not beaten North Carolina since 1939 and the women had not knocked off the Tar Heels in program history before Saturday's triumphs. 

CHAPEL HILL—In their final dual meet of the season, the Blue Devil men looked to break a losing streak that dates back to 1939 and the women hoped to seize their first-ever win against North Carolina.

Thanks to strong performances across the board, Duke can celebrate the end of its dual-meet season after making history.

The Blue Devils managed to win decisive victories against the Tar Heels Saturday afternoon at North Carolina’s Koury Natatorium. Duke’s No. 22 women’s team defeated North Carolina 163-137 led by consistent performances throughout the meet. The men’s team wasn’t far behind, pushing past the Tar Heels with a 173-126 ledger.

“We couldn’t be more proud. Four years ago when we recruited these seniors we talked about being a team that could contend in the ACC and beat the likes of UNC,” Blue Devil head coach Dan Colella said. “We couldn’t be more excited, especially for our seniors, to finish out their dual meet career with a win against UNC.”

Continuing a suite of top-tier performances, the Duke diving team turned heads yet again in Chapel Hill.

Although the Tar Heels took first- and second-place finishes in women’s 1-meter diving, the men’s team came up with a slew of dominant performances. Sophomore Evan Moretti topped the field with the second-highest Duke score ever at 380.85, followed by a tie between Blue Devil freshman Nathaniel Hernandez and North Carolina’s Jack Nyquist at 353.63 points—the seventh-highest score in program history.

On the 3-meter board, Duke’s women found better footing. Senior Kirby Quinn came just 10 points behind North Carolina’s top diver Elissa Dawson with a season-best mark of 327.75. The men’s team again topped the 3-meter, with Hernandez taking first at 399.30 points and Moretti not far behind at 386.78.

“Today was a lot of fun,” Blue Devil head diving coach Nunzio Esposto said. “The work that we’ve done for the divers—the drills, the work that we do on their takeoffs, all of those things we do for their technique really showed themselves today.”

On the other side of the pool, Duke took an early lead and never looked back sparked by dominance in the relays.

In the opening women’s 200-yard medley relay, the Blue Devils’ A team of sophomore Maddie Hess, senior Ashleigh Shanley, freshman Alyssa Marsh and senior Maddie Rusch broke out for a fast win for Duke. A monster breaststroke split of 28.35 from Shanley propelled her team to a first-place time of 1:39.62, almost two seconds ahead of the Tar Heels’ top quartet.

On the men’s side, the Blue Devil A quartet of senior Kaz Takabayashi, senior Peter Kropp, senior Michael Miller and sophomore Yusuke Legard came out just ahead of the B team of sophomore Max St. George, senior Michael Seaberg, senior Dylan Payne and freshman Miles Williams by less than half a second as Duke took the top two spots.

The 400-yard freestyle relays came down to much more dramatic finishes. The women’s A team of Hess, Rusch, sophomore Hunter Aitchison and Marsh started out consistently behind North Carolina. However, a stunning finish from Marsh shot the Blue Devils forward in the final 50 yards, securing a relay win by less than half a second. The men’s A team overcame a similar deficit in its relay, as the quartet of sophomore Sean Tate, Miller, Williams and Legard turned things around. After trailing in the first 300 yards, Legard saved the race with a 44.30 split to secure a win.

Duke also showed off its depth in individual events. Junior Verity Abel showed her distance prowess in posting a season-best first-place finish of 9:56.56 in the 1,000-yard freestyle. She also excelled in the 500-yard freestyle, notching a first-place win four seconds ahead of teammate senior Brittany Friese in second.

Junior Leah Goldman won the 200-yard freestyle for the women’s team, but the Tar Heels showed why they had beaten the Blue Devil men more than 70 straight times, with Jorden Merrilees giving the home team some momentum. But in response, St. George topped the men’s 100-yard backstroke, pulling well ahead of his closest Tar Heel competition by almost a full second.

Duke kept the momentum going into the 100-yard breaststroke, as Payne and Shanley won their respective men’s and women’s events. Miller overcame an early deficit in the 200-yard butterfly to shoot past Tar Heel Matthew Conway in the last 25-yard stretch, pulling out a tight victory to help the men pull away.

Seaberg and Legard sprinted past North Carolina in the 50-yard freestyle. Legard would continue his streak of freestyle victories in the 100-yard freestyle event, taking first just 0.02 seconds ahead of Williams as the Blue Devils swept the top two places. St. George continued to increase the point gap by notching an easy win in the 200-yard backstroke at 1:46.65—two seconds ahead of second place.

After a North Carolina three-event win streak, Duke’s women’s team managed to flip the momentum in the 200-yard individual medley, with Goldman posting an impressive 2:01.63 finish thanks to an early butterfly split of 26.44.

The Blue Devils got contributions from many different parts of their roster, and now enter the home stretch of the season with just the Janis Hope Dowd Nike Cup—a three-day event in Durham and Chapel Hill—and postseason competition left.

“This is a good indicator for what’s to come in the coming weeks,” Colella said. “We’ve got the Nike cup, then the women’s ACC, then the men’s ACC. Everybody’s definitely looking forward to it.”


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