The Blue Devils were no match for the Bulldogs Saturday.
It was clear that Duke would be fighting an uphill battle against Georgia. Ranked No. 15 in men’s and No. 8 in women’s, Georgia has a much deeper swimming tradition than Duke's unranked men's squad and 22nd-ranked women's squad.
At a rare home meet in Taishoff Aquatics Pavilion, Duke put up an admirable fight, though neither the Blue Devil men's or women's teams could pull out a victory, falling 170-130 in men's and 160-140 in women's.
“Honestly, I had high expectations going into today,” said Duke captain Alyssa Marsh. “I thought that we had a really good chance to take the dogs down. We did everything we could have done today and we can only control what we can do so I think we performed to an awesome level.”
The meet started off on a high note, perhaps Duke’s highest of the day, with both diving teams dominating Georgia. With a combined score across all events of 54-22, it was never even a competition. The divers were at the top of their game Saturday, only allowing Georgia to place first in the women’s three-meter event.
Leading the diving team’s success was senior team captain Nathaniel Hernandez, who placed first in both the one and three-meter men’s events. Coming off of a stellar junior year in which he qualified for the NCAA championship final, Hernandez has ample confidence to start his senior year.
“I think at this point, it’s my senior year and college season is a lot different from club growing up, in that we’re competing all the time,” said Hernandez. “I’ve now built this large base of meets to build off of and I can pull from all my different experiences and mistakes to improve my performances.”
Meanwhile, in the laned pool, the competition was not as docile. Right out of the gate, it looked as if Duke had a chance to come out on top. In both 200-yard medley relays, the Blue Devils won by razor-thin margins, neither winning by over a second. Accompanied by the roar of the crowd echoing through Taishoff Pavilion, the day felt primed for a Duke upset.
However, the cracks started to appear shortly after.
There were many times throughout the meet where it seemed as if the men’s team could pull of an upset, but the Bulldogs outmatched the Blue Devils in too many events. The first of the mismatches was in the 1000-yard race, where Duke’s insufficient distance swimming resulted in two hard losses, with the men and women finishing 12.19 and 15.5 seconds out of first, respectively.
“We know the Georgia men, we both have our strengths and I don’t want to say weaknesses but we knew that we were going to be able to capitalize in the sprint events,” said Duke head coach Dan Colella. “They are traditionally strong in the distance events and in the 200s of strokes and that kind of shined through for them mid-meet. That’s where they kind of pulled away from us.”
Duke wasn’t able to win at home this weekend and it will be a long time before it races at Taishoff again. The next home meet will not come until Feb. 1, when the Blue Devils get a chance to take down rival North Carolina.
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