Duke kicked off the 2023 portion of its season Jan. 14 with its first of two Triangle-area matchups, as N.C. State (No. 5 men, No. 4 women) traveled to Taishoff Aquatics Pavillion to face off against the Blue Devils. It was an emotional matchup for the Blue Devils, as it was the first since the passing of head coach Dan Colella in December at age 60. A moment of silence was held before the commencement of the competition, and N.C. State also showed its respect for the long-time head coach of the program, wearing supportive caps and leaving a memorial in honor of Collela after the completion of the meet.
Despite the intense emotion, Duke also celebrated its Senior Day, honoring one of its strongest classes. Among those celebrated were seniors Olivia Tighe, Alex Bumpas, Brad Sanford, Jonah Cagley, Ali Watson, Kate Mullin, Matthew Knox, Charlie Gingrich, Coleman Kredich, Kevin Repice, Easop Lee, Emma Shuppert, Brendan Driscoll, Chris Dalla Valle, Nick Viers and Will Tenpas along with graduate students Mia Leko, Cole Reznick, David Hallaron and Kathryn Haver.
Both the men’s and women’s teams lost to the Wolfpack, 168-130 for the women and 199-96 for the men. The Blue Devil women suffered their first loss of the season, with the men falling below .500 for the first time.
Despite the loss for the Duke women (4-1), the score was closer than it was a year ago—when N.C. State defeated the Blue Devils 174-126—reflecting the rise of the women’s program, which climbed to #19 in the most recent SwimSwam NCAA power rankings.
Breaststroke remains a standout discipline for the Duke women, spearheaded by junior Sarah Foley and freshman Kaelyn Gridley.
“I think we have like a lot of depth in that event,” Foley said. “Obviously, Kaelyn and I, along with Catherine Belyakov and Audrey Portello, it's just fun to get to train together. And you know, we were able to have a lot of fun behind the blocks too and kind of take each other out of the psyched-out mentality.”
Foley has been sensational this season, and she continued her dual meet success, coming out on top in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:13.95) and the 400-yard IM (4:18.46). Duke led the charge in the 200-yard breaststroke, with Belyakov and Gridley taking second and third to sweep the podium. Foley was not the only Blue Devil who claimed a top spot on the day, as she was joined by sophomore distance specialist Yixuan Chang, who stood atop the 500-yard freestyle (4:53.20).
For the unranked Duke men, this was a grittier battle between the lane lines. Despite what the score says, the men’s team has a lot of positives to take away from the meet.
Although the Wolfpack gave it their best effort, they were not ultimately able to sweep the meet, with fifth-year Cole Reznick taking the victory in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:02.31). Reznick also combined with David Chang, Gingrich and Kredich for a final time of (1:28.85) in the 200-yard medley relay, a fast dual meet time for the Blue Devils.
The slightly slower times for Duke were to be expected after the team recently concluded its annual training trip to Aruba. “We were down in Aruba for a week [of] 11 practices, they stepped up, they brought energy, emotion, we did have a little fun, we had a day off, went sailing and snorkeling,” said interim head coach Doak Finch. “But I couldn't ask for more from them for when they were down there … And I couldn't ask for more, we're in a position where we're tired. We're a little sore.”
Duke will get a weekend to rest before it gets ready to take on its second Triangle-area competitor, North Carolina. As is the case with every Duke team, this is a rivarly meet, and the Blue Devils will no doubt be ready for the action as they travel Friday to Koury Natatorium.
“UNC is always big,” Finch said. “The rivalry brings out the best. It's the most exciting meet of the year. [The swimmers] look forward to it. People get pumped up and swim fast. That's a great, last dual meet, going into the ACC Championships to really sharpen up and be able to look at any race plan to be able to really be able to look and fine-tune any details on what we want to do for the last two weeks.”
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