The Liberty swimming & diving team begins its 2017-18 season against a familiar foe, taking on CCSA opponent Campbell, on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Johnson Aquatic Center.
This is the fourth year in a row, and sixth time in program history, that Liberty has opened its swimming & diving season against Campbell. The Lady Flames have won each of the last nine meetings with the Camels, boasting a 9-2 all-time record in the series.
Last year, Liberty downed Campbell twice, including a 144-134 decision in the season opener, Oct. 1 in Buies Creek, N.C. The Lady Flames then defeated the Camels, 205-57, in the last meet at LaHaye Aquatics Center, Jan. 20.
Liberty is looking to earn its second conference title this season, and first since 2014. The Lady Flames picked up their fifth CCSA runner-up finish in program history last year.
During the 2016-17 season, Liberty posted a 10-2 record, including a 5-1 mark against CCSA opponents. A regular-season highlight came Oct. 7-8, when the Lady Flames went 4-0 at the Intermountain Shootout, sweeping Utah, BYU, Air Force and Colorado Mesa. Liberty has now posted seven wins over Power 5 schools in program history.
A key moment in program history will take place this season, as the Liberty Natatorium is set to open this fall. The Lady Flames will contest their first meet at the state-of-the-art facility on Dec. 1-2, with the Grand Opening set for Jan. 26-27. The Liberty Natatorium will house an Olympic-sized pool with a separate diving well, along with seating for 1,400 spectators in a wraparound setting. The facility will feature the newest and best technology.
Head Coach Jake Shellenberger returns for his eighth season at the helm, guiding the program since the inaugural 2010-11 campaign. He has posted a 73-28 dual-meet record, twice being named CCSA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year. His teams have gone 42-14 against CCSA competition.
Liberty had a strong showing at the 2017 CCSA Championships, recording 16 podium finishes, four victories, eight NCAA B cuts and four program records.
The Lady Flames graduated two-time CCSA podium finisher Victoria Tschoke, who was the first Liberty swimmer to place top eight at the CCSA Championships in all three of her events during all four years of competition. They also lost Delia Weber, program record holder in the 1000 free and 1650 free and the 2017 CCSA champion in the 1650 free. Rachel Rippey was lost to graduation as well.
Junior Alicia Finnigan returns after a standout season. She won the 200 fly at the conference meet, before setting a conference record, with a time of 1:56.15 at the Bulldog Last Chance Meet to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Finnigan closed out her dominant campaign in the summer, tying for 10th place in the 200-meter butterfly against a challenging field at the Phillips 66 National Championships.
Finnigan (500 free, 100 fly, 200 fly) and Prudence Rooker (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 IM) became the fifth and sixth swimmers in program history to post three top-three finishes at a single CCSA Championship meet.
Sophomore Brittany Weiss returns after earning Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet in 2017, the third Lady Flame all-time to win the award. She won the CCSA 100 back in program-record, NCAA B cut time, 53.42, becoming the first Liberty swimmer to win the 100 back at the CCSA Championships. She also swam a B cut in the 100 fly, placing fifth in 54.15.
Senior Prudence Rooker is a five-time podium finisher at the conference level, including three medal performances in 2017. Last season, she placed second at the CCSA Championships in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke and 200 IM. Rooker swam B cuts in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.
Senior Rachel Hoeve made three A Finals appearances at the 2017 CCSA Championships, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in the 50 free in NCAA B cut, personal-best 22.76. Her 22.76 50 free is tied for third in program history. She was dominant in dual meets last year, winning the 50 free all six times she contested it in 2016-17.
The 2017-18 Lady Flames return 21 student-athletes from last year's squad, while welcoming 11 newcomers. With the opening of the Liberty Natatorium imminent, Liberty has fielded a complement of seven divers.
Liberty returns 16 student-athletes who scored points at the 2017 CCSA Championships. Among Liberty's returnees, Hannah Baker (50 free, 100 free, 200 free), Shelby Black (500 free), Danielle Boothe (100 back), Colleen Donlin (50 free, 100 free), Alicia Finnigan (100 fly, 200 fly, 500 free), Ricki Lee Hodges (100 breaststroke), Rachel Hoeve (50 free, 100 free, 100 back), Dani Jordan (1650 free), Elizabeth Magnusson (500 free), Morgan Noonan (200 breaststroke), Chelsea Pond (200 free), Prudence Rooker (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 IM), Ashlee Sall (200 free, 1650 free) and Brittany Weiss (100 back, 100 fly) all earned top-eight placings at last year's league meet.
Campbell Campbell finished sixth at the 2017 CCSA Championships, scoring 695.5 points. The Camels set four new school records at the league meet last season, including the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay. The squad went 8-5, including 5-2 against CCSA opponents.
Senior Geena Squartino placed top-eight in the 1650 each of the last two seasons at the league meet. Program 200 fly record holder, junior Madison Scott (2:02.53) earned two straight CCSA sixth-place finishes in the event, in 2016 and 2017. Senior Michelle Case holds Campbell's program records in the 50 free (23.55) and 100 free (51.08). Senior Sindija Silina is the program record holder in the 200 free, at 1:51.62, while classmate Caroline Clark boasts the Camels' 100 fly record, 55.17. Sophomore Kelsey Tunstall is back after posting top-eight finishes in the 200 back and 400 IM at the 2017 CCSA Championships.
Following Saturday's meet, Liberty will travel to Kansas for the first time in program history, taking on the Kansas Jayhawks, next Friday and Saturday in Lawrence, Kan. The two-day meet will begin at 6 p.m. ET on Friday at Robinson Natatorium, before Saturday's noon ET session wraps up the event.
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