LINCOLN, Neb., Jan. 3. WITH two meets under its belt, the reconstituted Nebraska women's swimming and diving team heads to Boca Raton, Fla., today, for the Florida Atlantic Invitational.
Most of the members of the Husker women's team quit or transferred last year after the university killed the men's program, citing budgetary reasons — a claim that was clearly false. When Pablo Morales was hired to reinvigorate the women's program, presumably for Title IX reasons, he had to place ads for potential team members in the school newspaper. Morales has a monumental task ahead of him to bring the Cornhuskers back to the level they were at during the days of Penny Heyns, Therese Alshammar and other international stars.
Although the final schedule of teams has not yet been set for the FAU Invite, Nebraska will face Bucknell, Binghamton and Pennsylvania. Last year the Huskers downed Penn in Boca Raton, 186-93.
Nebraska will be facing Bucknell and Binghamton for the first time in school history.
Bucknell, from the Patriot League, stands at 2-2 in dual meet action. The Bison have taken home a second-place finish at the Penn State Invitational as well as a fourth-place finish at the Princeton Invitational.
Binghamton, out of the America East Conference, is in its first season of Division I competition.
The four-way dual meet features each team squaring off against the other, dual-meet style.
At the 2001 FAU Invitational, the Huskers went 3-1, with wins over Florida Atlantic, Penn and Virginia Tech before narrowly falling to then-25th ranked Purdue, 148-132. Six Huskers won individual events.
The dual meets will mark the beginning of an abbreviated season for the Huskers, as the team only has three dual meets on the 2001-02 schedule.
Following the Florida Atlantic Invitational, the Huskers will travel to Lawrence, Kansas, to take on the Jayhawks in a conference dual on Jan. 19.
Junior Jeni Fortino has rejoined the diving team, according to diving coach Jefferson Bro. Fortino, who dove her freshman and sophomore years at Nebraska, will be available to compete at Florida Atlantic.
Last season, Fortino became NU's leader in the diving well when Jerilyn Drummond went down with a back injury. The highlight of her sophomore season came against top-ranked Georgia when the Modesto, Calif., native took home the title on the 3-meter, establishing a career-best score of 378. At the Big 12 meet, Fortino's top finish came on the platform, where she finished 14th.
"Having Jeni back adds another element to our team," Bro said. "She was one of our top divers last season and I know that she can compete well for us down the stretch."