PISCATAWAY, N.J. (October 14, 2013) – Coming off a historic year, the Rutgers swimming and diving team enters the 2013-14 campaign with intentions of competing for an American Athletic Conference title. The squad returns 14 letterwinners and also welcomes the addition of seven freshmen to the roster. Included in the returners are the entire record-breaking 400 medley relay team of Joanna Wu, Greta Leberfinger, Brittany Guinee and Mary Moser, as well as senior diver Nicole Scott, who reset the platform event record while also capturing a silver medal at the Zone Championship and advancing to the NCAAs. Guinee and Leberfinger round out the record-breaking returners, as they each set new school marks in the 200 butterfly and 200 breaststroke, respectively.
“We had a young squad last year, only lost three to graduation and are really just looking forward to seeing the younger ones develop into their roles this year,” said fourth-year head coach Phil Spiniello. “Also we look forward to seeing how the newcomers will help impact that as well. We have a solid squad this year and are anticipating some good results.”
Last year, Rutgers concluded the 2012-13 campaign with a fifth-place finish in the BIG EAST Championships. RU just missed fourth place by 4.50 points and was 32.50 points from a third-place finish. The Scarlet Knights finished the regular season with a 9-2 record and a 2-1 mark in conference action. The team’s win total matched that of Spiniello’s second year, which marked the most victories for the program since 2001.
“Last season was a big step forward for our program in breaking four team records, moving up in the BIG EAST standings, putting a diver in the NCAA meet and really just starting to move towards our goals as a program,” commented Spiniello.
Now in the newly formed American Athletic Conference, the Scarlet Knights look to build on last year’s success against AAC member schools, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville and Southern Methodist.
Scattered throughout the Scarlet Knights’ slate are also former BIG EAST opponents, as well as future Big Ten adversaries.
“This is our year in the AAC, although we do have a little bit of the Big Ten flavor in the schedule with our trip out to the Chicago-area. I expect that trip to be a very good experience for us in setting ourselves up for the transition to the Big Ten,” said Spiniello. “This year in the AAC, our goal is that championship meet out in Louisville in February and we will be focused on that and performing to the best of our abilities.”
Rutgers opens the season on Friday, Oct. 18 with the annual two-day Sonny Werblin Invite at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center on the Busch Campus. Among the teams competing are Southern Connecticut, Central Connecticut State and Pace. In addition to the Sonny Werblin Invite, the Scarlet Knights will also host the Frank Elm Invite from Nov. 22 to Nov. 24 and welcome Villanova, West Chester, Drexel, Saint Peter’s, Army and Columbia to Piscataway.
“I always look forward to the mid-season invite, the Frank Elm Invitational, that we host the weekend before Thanksgiving,” remarked Spiniello. “It’s always a great mid-season point to see where we’re at, see what we need to work on moving into the second half of the season and really prepare for the championships season with AACs and NCAAs.”
The Scarlet Knights will host four additional events at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center, including matchups against former BIG EAST opponents. RU welcomes Villanova, Georgetown and Seton Hall on Nov. 8 and 9 and Georgetown and Providence on Feb. 8.
Spiniello will lead his team out west for a dual-meet against future Big Ten foe Illinois on Jan. 10, followed by a quad-meet against Northwestern, Notre Dame and Michigan the next day.
The Scarlet Knights begin their quest for the first-ever American Athletic Championship title on Feb. 19 in Louisville, Ky. The Zone Diving Championships are set for March 10 in Blacksburg, Va., while the NCAA Championships will take place from March 20 through the 22 in Minneapolis, Minn.
Spiniello expects the Scarlet Knights to continue their upward trend of success under his watch.
“It’s a tribute to the athletes coming in here and trying to get better every day,” he explained. “Buying into our vision for the program and just taking one meet at a time, one swim at a time, one dive at a time, not thinking too far ahead and just trying to improve the program one thing at a time rather than on a grander scale.”