Touting a young and talented diving squad as well as a particularly strong women’s team, the Blue Devils opened their 2017-18 season with a dual meet against ACC opposition.
Duke began action Friday at Taishoff Aquatics Pavilion against Florida State and Virginia Tech in a two-day competition. The 20th-ranked Blue Devil women’s team topped the No. 23 Seminoles 192.5-160.5, but came up short 214-139 against the Hokies. Unfortunately for Duke, its men’s team finished in last, falling 208-145 against No. 20 Florida State and 209-144 to 19th-ranked Virginia Tech.
“It was a really great weekend of racing to have three ACC schools come together and competing in the middle of October and have the kind of performances we saw this weekend,” Blue Devil head coach Dan Colella said. “It was an exciting way to get things started. Virginia Tech did a phenomenal job this weekend. They came in, and from start to finish swam incredibly tough. All three teams posted some great performances.”
Although Duke had trouble topping the opposition as a team, the Blue Devils still shined in some individual events.
Both of Duke’s teams started off strong with wins in the 200-yard medley relay. The women's team of junior Maddie Hess, freshman Connie Dean, sophomore Alyssa Marsh and senior Leah Goldman took the first race of the season with a time of 1:41.41—just 0.25 seconds ahead of the Seminoles. Although Hess and Dean struggled to create separation in the opening legs of the race, Marsh and Goldman finally broke through in the second 100 yards, notching 23.39- and 22.76-second splits, respectively.
On the men’s side, the Blue Devils won by a similarly tight margin. Juniors Max St. George, Sean Tate, Yusuke Legard and sophomore Miles Williams combined for a 1:29.39 time, again less than half a second ahead of the Hokies in second place. Duke led throughout—albeit just barely—to secure a quick win.
“Two big highlights were the medley relays,” Colella said. “To win those events and have the kind performances we had is really exciting.”
The women’s team extended its lead thanks to senior Verity Abel, who capped the 1,000-yard freestyle Saturday with a strong mark of 10:03.00. Marsh further contributed to her team’s score with wins in both the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly events, notching times of 22.91 and 54.52 seconds, respectively.
Although the men’s team struggled to fight to the front of the pack—winning just four of 19 events—some of Duke’s top swimmers still shone through.
Legard was the first on the men’s team to take a race, securing the 100-yard freestyle Friday with a time of 44.52 seconds. St. George also contributed a first-place finish with a win in the 100-yard backstroke in 47.95 seconds. In the final event of the meet, Legard, Williams, Tate and St. George took second in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Although the Seminoles' A relay quartet held the lead throughout, the Blue Devils managed to keep the Hokies’ A squad almost a full second behind, notching a time of 2:59.34.
In the deep end of the pool, Duke got off to a slow start Friday with junior Lizzie Fitzpatrick taking fifth on the three-meter board with a score of 297.95. Junior Evan Moretti held a close second on the one-meter board at 338.85 with sophomore Nathaniel Hernandez just a point behind him. However, the Blue Devils found their groove Saturday, with junior MacKenzie Willborn taking second on the one-meter diving board with 271.25 points and Moretti securing first on the three-meter with 390.45.
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“Today was great,” head diving coach Nunzio Esposto said. “Evan competed against a lot of really good guys in our ACC conference. I was really happy that he won three-meter and also won by quite a margin.”
The Blue Devils will continue their season with another double dual meet Friday against N.C. State and Penn State in Raleigh.
“It's the first meet—lots of things to work on, but a lot of great things to build off of,” Colella said. “We're incredibly proud and excited with how we raced this weekend.”
Emily Davis contributed reporting.