It will take a team effort for a successful Saturday meet.
Nov. 3, 2006
CHAMPAIGN - The Fighting Illini will have a full team on Saturday at Ohio State, a week after most upperclassmen rested at home while the underclassmen gained experience.
Saturday's return to Columbus marks the first time Illinois has traveled to the Buckeye State since Feb. 2006 when senior Barbie Viney won the 100 free conference title at the Big Ten Championships, the first conference championship for Illinois in 24 years.
Counting Viney, three of four swimmers (Becca Poetz and Meghan Farrell are the other two after Christina Brunka's graduation) return from last season's UI record-setting performance in the 200 free relay and the 400 free relay.
Head coach Sue Novitsky recognizes the importance of the conference tilt and expects leadership from Viney and sophomore Marissa Clapp after Clapp set a pair of pool records as part of three victories at ISU.
"It should be a tight meet," Novitsky said. "That's what I'm looking for is a very competitive meet where we have to stand up and race. We're obviously going to a great facility. There will be some very fast swimming in that pool."
In the team's third consecutive weekend meet, the Illini mentor hopes that competitive drive will help compensate for any freshman fatigue.
"It's a challenge, this being our third weekend in a row and that's part of the process of learning how to calm yourself down then get yourself revved and up and ready to go again," Novitsky said.
"They've been doing pretty well," Novitsky said. You can definitely tell that they are a little bit tired. They've still been working really well and have been able to put up some good times in practice working to get themselves ready."
More than half of last Friday's Illini participants were newcomers, but nonetheless visiting Illinois claimed the top 15 of 16 events so coupled with this week's strenuous practice, Novitsky is confident that the first-year swimmers and divers will be prepared for the Big Ten battle.
"We've been talking about finding their role and realizing that they can help the team be successful," Novitsky said. "Hopefully that makes them hungry to keep working harder and keep achieving and working toward their goals, stepping up when we need them to."
Ultimately it will take a team effort for Saturday's noon start, Novitsky said.
"One of our goals is to be the best team on deck. We want to make sure that everybody knows that Illinois is there and that we're always supporting the team and are the loudest team there because that gets the momentum going. Then as soon as people start swimming fast, people can't wait for their chance to compete."