Courtney Pope will look to continue to her strong start to the season. She current sits in the top 3 on the all-time fastest individuals list in the 50 and 100 free.
Oct. 24, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini swimming and diving team will compete in back-to-back days for the first time this season Friday and Saturday in Michigan. The Illini will open the weekend with a dual meet between conference foe Michigan State and Liberty Friday night at 4 p.m. CT in East Lansing before traveling to Rochester, Mich., Saturday to face Oakland at Noon CT.
"The team is gearing up for a solid two days of meets," head coach Sue Novitsky said. "Competing back-to-back days and having to travel in between is going to a great challenge for the team."
Competing in consecutive days was one of Novitsky's focuses for this season in hopes of getting every athlete physically and mentally ready for the end of the season. The Illini will compete in a few more weekends like this one over the course of the season.
"This will give them some terrific practice at having to race at night and turn around and compete early the next day, as we will have to do at the Big Ten Championships," Novitsky said. "I love throwing a little adversity at them and seeing how they deal with it and keep maturing and learning as athletes and as a team."
Despite a bittersweet start to the season last weekend, falling to in-state rival Northwestern 166-133 while defeating Eastern Michigan 191-108, the Illini showed off some fast and talented swimmers.
Led by senior Courtney Pope and junior Alison Meng, the Illini claimed seven first-place finishes in last weekend's meet. The two combined to take six first-place finishes on the night, each claiming two individual meets while also contributing to two relay victories. Senior Erica Lynn also claimed an individual victory in the 200 breast.
The Illini face a tough slate of competition this weekend. Michigan State enters the weekend 1-1 after falling to Iowa 182-117 last weekend. The Illini 14-9 all-time record against the Spartans, including a 8-1 mark under current head coach Sue Novitsky. The Illini defeated the Spartans 153-147 at home last season. Oakland enters the weekend 2-1, while Liberty has a 2-2 record to start the season.
"Both meets are going to be a big test," Novitsky said. "Friday night we go against two great teams with some strong and talented athletes. Oakland will be waiting for us on Saturday, and we will have to step up and recover for another day of stiff competition."