The Daily Gamecock

Swimming and diving defeats Duke, Queens

Gamecocks return strong from two-month break in meet

In the opening meet of the year, the South Carolina men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams swept Duke and Queens at the Carolina Natatorium on Saturday, recording 20 first-place finishes in 32 events.

USC coach McGee Moody was pleasantly surprised by the teams’ performances after a two-month break from competition and several weeks of intense training leading up to the meet. The USC men (4-3) finished 170-130 against the Blue Devils (4-4) and 222-66 over the Division II Royals (7-2). The win was made even sweeter because of USC’s loss to Duke in November at the Nike Invitational. The USC women defeated Duke, 170-127, and Queens, 254-39, to improve to 5-2 on the season.

“We were anxious to see how they would respond today, and I thought they did a really good job,” Moody said about the USC victory. “We had a lot of people who stepped up. We had a lot of people who were hurt or sick, and I talked to the team early on about stepping up and filling in for the folks who couldn’t go. I think we did a great job with that today. We had some people with some best times today, which is really odd for this time of year, so it’s got us excited about the upcoming season. It was a great day for the program.”

On a day that was heavy on the diving portion of the meet, both the men’s and women’s teams handily defeated Duke under the leadership and skill of senior Courtney Forcucci and junior Rylan Ridenour. Forcucci and Ridenour secured wins for the Gamecocks in both the one-meter and three-meter springboard competitions, with Forcucci scoring a 295.34 in the one-meter and 332.50 in the three-meter over Duke’s Jessica Lyden’s 287.40 and 282.45. Ridenour continued to broaden the gap, defeating Duke’s Jordan Long and Cody Kolodziejzyk with the scores of 364.35 in the one-meter and 366.07 in the three-meter.

“Well, we’re happy about it, obviously,” said USC diving coach Todd Sherritt. “They’re a strong team for sure, and I think that this meet was a big thing for us. We conditioned really hard this week, and frankly, I was surprised they could even move today. And so my objective wasn’t to necessarily win every event today. However, I think our diving level with Courtney (Forcucci) and Rylan (Ridenour) and the whole group is just looking a lot, lot better, so I think we’re a little stronger than some of these harder teams like Duke are right at this point.

“I think even back [at the Nike Invitational] with Courtney, she missed a dive, and that’s why she was second then. Because when she’s on her head, there’s no contest ... You have to hit the dives. Although Rylan has been having a difficult time being consistent, his performance here today was really important. He was pretty steady on his head.”

The swimming corps also had an important day. Junior Jordan Gibbs broke her personal record in the women’s 1,000 freestyle with a time of 10:10:18, and sophomores Gerard Rodriguez, Matt Navata and Rachel Schaffer each won two events that led the Gamecocks to victory.

“I think that part of it is that we had a really good team spirit going into it today,” Schaffer said on her performance. “We wanted our revenge for [Duke] beating us earlier this year at a big meet. I think that in the first event, one of our girls won, and it just set a spark that carried throughout the meet. I think our team is stronger than it’s ever been before, and I think we’ve got a really good shot at doing well at SEC (Championships).”

The teams are looking forward to the upcoming dual SEC meet against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens this Friday. They are confident that the hard winter training will continue to pay off throughout 2012.

“I feel pretty confident [about the rest of the season],” Navata said. “We got in some real hard training these past couple weeks or so. All our groups have all been working pretty hard and we’ve all be trying to achieve our goals, so hopefully when we start competing for our conference meets all of us will hit our final goals that we want to meet for the rest of the year.”