One week after defeating Marshall at Liberty Natatorium, the Liberty swimming & diving team will head to Huntington, W.Va., to take on the Thundering Herd, Saturday at 11 a.m. at Frederick A. Fitch Natatorium.
Last Saturday, Liberty defeated Marshall, 160-140, in a tri-meet that also included UNC Asheville. Liberty sealed its win by winning the final event of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay. Saturday's meet was tightly contested, with Liberty winning 10 events and Marshall claiming six event victories. Liberty has gone 3-0 at the brand-new Liberty Natatorium this season.
Liberty is 3-0 all-time against Marshall, a series that began with a 147-141 win over the Thundering Herd, Oct. 22, 2011 in Huntington, W.Va. This is the third time in program history, and first since the 2014-15 season against James Madison, that Liberty will face the same non-conference opponent twice in one season. The Lady Flames also met Vanderbilt twice in the 2013-14 campaign, defeating the Commodores both times.
So far this season, Liberty holds an 8-2 record, including 5-0 against CCSA opponents. The Lady Flames nearly knocked off defending Big 12 runner-up Kansas and have picked up conference wins over Campbell (twice), Gardner-Webb, Georgia Southern and UNC Asheville.
Weekly Honors Senior Prudence Rooker was named CCSA Women's Swimmer of the Week on Tuesday. It was her second career Swimmer of the Week award, as she was also honored on Nov. 4, 2014. Liberty has now had at least one CCSA Swimmer of the Week each of the eight seasons in program history.
Earlier this season, junior Amy Schools was named CCSA Women's Diver of the Week on Oct. 10 and again on Dec. 5. Schools is the fourth Lady Flame to earn CCSA Diver of the Week honors, and first since teammate Jenna Joyal, Oct. 11, 2016.
In last Saturday's meet against Marshall and UNC Asheville, Prudence Rooker (100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke) and Hannah Baker (50 free, 200 free) both won two events. Marshall's Anna Lynch won the 500 free and 1000 free. Rooker's 200 breaststroke (2:20.37) and Baker's 200 free (1:52.60) were the fastest times by a Lady Flame in their respective events this season.
Liberty placed second at the FGCU Triple Distance Classic, Jan. 5 in Fort Myers, Fla. For the meet, the Lady Flames won seven individual events and one relay. Liberty got three wins from senior Prudence Rooker (50 breaststroke, 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke), and two from junior Alicia Finnigan (50 fly, 100 fly). Finnigan was named the meet's butterfly triple-distance champion, while Rooker was named the meet's breaststroke champion. Hannah Baker won the 200 free, while Brittany Weiss claimed victory in the 100 backstroke.
Finnigan led the way for Liberty with three individual-event wins (200 fly, 500 free, 1000 free) at the Central Virginia Duals, Dec. 1-2 in Lynchburg. She swam a season-best 2:02.09 to win the 200 fly. 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.
Rooker has won each of the last six individual events she has entered, beginning with the 200 breaststroke at the Central Virginia Duals. 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.
Starting last season, Rachel Hoeve has been dominant in the 50 free. She won the event 11 straight times in dual-meet action, including a season-best 23.30 on Dec. 1. Hoeve's streak was broken last Saturday, placing second by .01 of a second. She made three A Finals appearances at the 2017 CCSA Championships, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in the 50 free in a NCAA B cut, personal-best 22.76. Her 22.76 50 free is tied for third in program history.
Weiss' 54.59 to win the 100 back at the Frank Elm Invite is the fastest 100 backstroke by any CCSA swimmer so far this season. She has won the 100 back six out of seven times she has entered it in dual meets this season. 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.
Liberty's relays had great performances at Virginia Tech. The 200 free relay of Hoeve, Colleen Donlin, Brittany Weiss and Hannah Baker won in 1:33.79, .01 seconds ahead of Virginia Tech's A team. Liberty's 200 medley relay placed third, but their time of 1:43.07 was the third-fastest regular-season 200 medley relay time in program history.
Freshman Lindsey Cohee has been impressive early on in her career, posting two wins each 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 (2:02.02), seventh in the 100 fly (55.93) and 10th in the 400 IM (4:39.14). Cohee has posted the fastest 100 fly and 200 fly time on the team in both events.
Payton Keiner has claimed victory in the 200 back four times this season. Her season-best 2:01.50 at the Frank Elm Invitational ranks sixth all-time in program history for the event. She is also ranked fourth in program history in the 50 backstroke (26.49), eighth in the 1000 freestyle (10:26.52) and ninth in the 100 back (55.99).
A pair of additional freshmen have entered the program's top 10 this season, in Kiah Francis (400 IM – 5th in 4:32.59; 100 IM – 9th in 1:01.08; 200 IM – 10th in 2:07.54) and Emily Manly (400 IM – 6th in 4:33.13).
Two Lady Flames have scored over 200 points in one-meter diving this season, led by Amy Schools' 216.15 at the Central Virginia Duals. Jenna Joyal scored 206.11 on Saturday, and she ranks third all-time in program history for one-meter diving with a 223.25 on Nov. 20, 2016. Schools is fifth in program history in both one-meter (216.15) and three-meter (184.35) diving.
Head Coach Jake Shellenberger is in his eighth season at the helm, guiding the program since the inaugural 2010-11 campaign. He has posted an 81-30 dual-meet record, twice being named CCSA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year. His teams have gone 47-14 against CCSA competition.
Marshall Marshall brings a 3-4 overall record into this weekend's meet, looking to bounce back from its loss to Liberty on Saturday. Last season, Marshall finished third at the Conference USA Championships with 724 points.
Catherine Bendziewicz returns after winning the 200 IM at the 2017 C-USA Championships in program-record 1:59.29. Bendziewicz also holds Marshall's record for 200 free, 1:47.87. She ranks third in the C-USA this season with a 2:02.00 in the 200 IM. Emma Lockyer, last year's fourth-place finisher in the 400 IM at the league meet, ranks third this season with a 4:18.60. Caroline Wanner is the team record holder in the 400 IM (4:15.07) and placed third at the 2017 C-USA meet in the event. Additional program record holders are Anna Lynch (1650 free – 16:37.21), Jordyn O'Dell (100 back – 55.86) and Madi Pulfer (500 free – 4:49.19).
After Saturday's meet, the Lady Flames return to Lynchburg, where they will host a tri-meet with VMI and George Mason, next Friday and Saturday. Friday's action will begin with the Liberty Natatorium Grand Opening, and swimming & diving events start at 6 p.m. On Saturday will be an alumnae reunion and senior day ceremonies, with action in the pool starting at 11 a.m.
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