The Liberty swimming & diving team returns to action this weekend, competing in the Virginia Tech Sprint Challenge, held Friday at 4 p.m. at Christiansburg Aquatic Center.
While in Christiansburg, Liberty (1-1) will take on Virginia Tech (2-0), VMI (0-2) and three-time defending NCAA Division II national champion Queens (3-0).
The Virginia Tech Sprint Challenge, a four-team meet, will be scored in dual-meet fashion. The program includes 12 individual swimming events and two relays.
This will be the fourth time that Liberty has competed in a meet at Virginia Tech, as the Lady Flames contested similar events three straight years, from 2012-13 through 2014-15.
Liberty is 0-3 all-time against Virginia Tech, while holding a 3-0 record versus VMI. This will be the Lady Flames' first all-time meeting with Queens. Liberty does hold one all-time win over an ACC opponent, having defeated Boston College on Nov. 2, 2012 in Boston, Mass.
The Lady Flames finished second at the 2017 CCSA Championships, their third straight conference runner-up finish and fifth in program history. Liberty won its first conference championship in 2014.
Liberty opened the 2017-18 season with a win over Campbell for the fourth year in a row, downing the Camels, 159-137, Sept. 30 in Buies Creek, N.C. Then, the Lady Flames fell in a close meet at 2017 Big 12 runner-up Kansas, 188.5-164.5, Oct. 6-7.
In each of its meets this season, Liberty has posted six individual-event victories. Freshmen Lindsey Cohee and Payton Keiner, along with junior Ricki Lee Hodges and senior Rachel Hoeve, have posted two individual-event victories each so far this season.
Weekly Honors Junior Amy Schools was named CCSA Women's Diver of the Week on Oct. 10, after completing her first collegiate diving competition, Oct. 6-7 at Kansas. She ranks fifth in program history in the one-meter and three-meter diving events. Schools is the fourth Lady Flame to earn CCSA Diver of the Week honors, and first since teammate Jenna Joyal, Oct. 11, 2016.
Starting last season, Hoeve has been dominant in the 50 free. She has won the event eight straight times in dual-meet action, including twice so far this season. She 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.
Cohee has been impressive early on in her career, posting wins in both the 100 fly and 200 fly. She is already fifth on the program's all-time top 10 performers list in the 200 fly (2:04.22) and sixth in the 100 fly (55.93).
Hodges has gotten off to a strong start, winning the 100 breaststroke at both Campbell and Kansas. Those were the second and third event victories of her collegiate career. Her 1:05.37 at Kansas is Liberty's top 100 breaststroke time of the season so far.
Keiner won the 200 back at Campbell before claiming the same event at Kansas. Her season-best 2:03.15 at Kansas ranks seventh all-time in program history for the event. She is also ranked seventh in program history in the 50 backstroke (27.05).
Brittany Weiss won the 100 back at Kansas in a season-best 55.84. Weiss earned Most Outstanding Freshman of the CCSA Meet in 2017. She won the CCSA 100 back in program-record, NCAA B cut time, 53.42. She also swam a B cut in the 100 fly, placing fifth in 54.15.
Alicia Finnigan earned victory at Kansas in the 200 fly, swimming 2:03.91. Finnigan won the 200 fly at the 2017 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. She then tied for 10th place in the 200-meter butterfly at the Phillips 66 National Championships in the summer.
A pair of additional freshmen have entered the program's top 10 this season, in Kiah Francis (400 IM – 5th in 4:33.59) and Emily Manly (400 IM – 10th in 4:39.59; 1000 free – 10th in 10:36.79).
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 is in his eighth season at the helm, guiding the program since the inaugural 2010-11 campaign. He has posted a 74-29 dual-meet record, twice being named CCSA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year. His teams have gone 43-14 against CCSA competition.
Last season, 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.
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.
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, including 14 who earned a combined 25 top-eight finishes at last year's league meet.
Virginia Tech Virginia Tech opened its 2017-18 season in impressive fashion last weekend, defeating a pair of nationally-ranked opponents in No. 20 Duke and No. 23 Florida State. Last year, the Hokies placed fifth at the ACC Championships before posting a 31st-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Sophomore Reka Gygory had an impressive showing last weekend, winning four events in the tri-meet. Last season Gygory set program records in the 200 IM (1:57.22) and 400 IM (4:04.97). She won the ACC title in 400 IM before finishing eighth at the national meet. Senior Klaudia Nazielbo Is a three-time All-American in the 200 fly, finishing as high as seventh in the event in 2015-16. She holds Virginia Tech's program records in the 100 back (51.86), 200 back (1:53.04) and 200 fly (1:53.77). On the boards, Ashlynn Peters is the reigning ACC champion in three-meter diving and an NCAA qualifier.
Queens Queens has built a dynasty at the Division II level, winning the last three NCAA Division II Women's Swimming & Diving Championships in a row. The Royals are 3-0 on the season, defeating Davidson, Richmond and Emory. Queens returns seven first-team All-Americans from last year, including seven-time All-American McKenzie Stevens, who holds the program record in the 1000 free (10:00.04). Six-time All-American Josefina Lorda-Taylor, placed top-eight at the 2017 NCAA Division II Women's Swimming & Diving Championships in the 200 fly, 200 IM and 400 IM. Georgia Dacruz returns after placing second in the 100 fly at nationals last year, and she is the program record holder in the event. Four-time All-American Alexandra Marshall finished second at NCAA's in the 50 free in 2017.
VMI The VMI Keydets, one of the original members of the CCSA when it first began during the 2007-08 season, ended their 10-year stint in the conference by placing 10th at the 2017 CCSA Women's Swimming & Diving Championship. VMI has now joined the America East Conference. The team is 0-2, losing a pair of dual meets with Mount Saint Mary's.
A total of 10 out of VMI's 14 program records are held by current Keydets. McKenzie Raber holds VMI's program records in the 200 free, 500 free, 1000 free and 1650 free. Morgan Davis (200 fly, 400 IM), Isabel French (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke) and Natalie Rivas (50 free, 100 free) hold two VMI records apiece.
Liberty will next compete in a tri-meet, next Friday at 5 p.m. at Gardner-Webb. That meet will see the Lady Flames square off against conference opponents Gardner-Webb and Georgia Southern.
Order of Events Friday, Oct. 20 1. 200 Medley Relay 2. 1000 Freestyle 3. 200 Freestyle 4. 100 Backstroke 5. 100 Breaststroke 6. 200 Butterfly 7. 50 Freestyle Break 8. 100 Freestyle
9. 200 Backstroke 10. 200 Breaststroke 11. 500 Freestyle 12. 100 Butterfly Break 13. 200 Individual Medley 14. 200 Freestyle Relay