ISL Playoff Match 6, Day 1: Aqua Centurions Take Stunning Lead Over Cali Condors

MARTINENGHI Nicolo AQC Aqua Centurions (AQC) ISL International Swimming League 2021 Match 6 day 1 Piscina Felice Scandone Napoli, Naples Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Nicolo Martinenghi -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

ISL Playoff Match 6, Day 1: Aqua Centurions Take Stunning Lead Over Cali Condors

The Cali Condors are missing superstar Caeleb Dressel in the last match of the ISL playoff round, and in his absence, the reigning ISL-champion Condors have not looked particularly sharp. They have individual wins from Kelsi DahliaBeata NelsonEmily EscobedoLilly King and Hali Flickinger, but the Aqua Centurions have managed to take a stunning lead over Cali with day two still to come.

Aqua leads by 14 points after two relay wins as well as individual triumphs from Matteo Rivolta, Arno Kamminga, Fabio Scozzoli and Rika Omoto. We’ll see if Aqua can maintain this lead in Sunday’s racing. Regardless, this day was one of the best in the short history of the Aqua Centurions, a team which has improved its roster considerably after finishing 10th and last during the 2020 season.

Cali is using this match as a final tuneup before the ISL final, while the only other team still with a chance of advancing to the final is the Toronto Titans are seeking a massive upset. However, while the Titans need to win the match in order to advance, they currently sit in fourth place with a lot of ground to make up. So what longshot chance the Titans have is almost gone already. Most likely, the ISL final will include Cali, Energy Standard, London Roar and LA Current for the third consecutive year.

Team Scores Through Day One:

  1. Aqua Centurions 264
  2. Cali Condors 250
  3. Team Iron 205
  4. Toronto Titans 180

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Women’s 100 Butterfly

After Kelsi Dahlia set a new ISL record of 54.89 in last week’s 100 fly and came within three tenths of the world record, Dahlia had to work hard this time to get the win. The Cali Condors veteran trailed Aqua Centurions’ Elena di Liddo and Toronto Titans’ Louise Hansson at the halfway point, but then Dahlia accelerated ahead down the stretch. She finished in 55.61, well off her best, and she will surely need to be around that record time in the final as she faces off against Energy Standard’s Sarah Sjostrom, the world-record holder.

Hansson ended up finishing just behind Dahlia at 55.82, while di Liddo faded to third in 56.54. Cali opened up the early lead as Dahlia was joined by fourth-place finisher Erika Brown (56.82).

Men’s 100 Butterfly

Aqua Centurions’ Matteo Rivolta had a stunning performance in the men’s 100 fly. Racing in lane one, the Italian pulled away on the third length and scored a 24-point jackpot, stealing points away from all but the second and third-place finishers in the race.

Rivolta finished in 48.64 to win by a whopping 1.88 seconds, and his time was the second-quickest of the entire ISL season, behind only Caeleb Dressel’s 48.53 from Match 4 (more than two months ago). The swim also made Rivolta the fifth-fastest performer in history, trailing only Dressel, Chad le ClosTom Shields and Evgeny Korotyshkin.

Cali Condors’ Jose Martinez placed second in 50.52, and third went to Iron’s Mikhail Vekovishchev (50.57). Every other swimmer in the field was more than two seconds behind Rivolta.

Women’s 200 Backstroke

Cali Condors’ Beata Nelson won the 200 back for the sixth time this season as she made a run at the world and American records in the event. Nelson was under world-record pace at the halfway point before falling slightly off the pace, but she finished in 2:00.84 to win the event by a second and a half. Nelson has been a little faster earlier in the season (2:00.55 in Match 7), but no other swimmer has gone under 2:01 this season.

In next week’s ISL finals, Nelson will again chase the various records in this event: Kaylee McKeown’s world record of 1:58.94, Minna Atherton’s ISL record of 1:59.25 and Missy Franklin’s 11-year-old American record of 2:00.03.

Nelson scored a 15-point jackpot as she jackpotted the final three swimmers in the race, but the pursuing Toronto Titans held their own. Kylie Masse, the Olympic bronze medalist in this event, placed second in 2:02.32, while her Toronto teammate Lisa Bratton took third in 2:02.71. Nelson’s Cali teammate Hali Flickinger placed fourth in 2:05.28.

Men’s 200 Backstroke

Team Iron has already been eliminated, and its season is guaranteed to end today, but Iron is looking to go out in style. Here, Iron claimed a strong 1-2 finish as Lorenzo Mora roared into the lead on the third 50 and then pulled away, and his teammate Robert Glinta beat out the field for the second spot. Mora won in 1:50.55, while Glinta finished in 1:52.38. Third place went to Cali’s Brodie Williams in 1:52.78.

Women’s 200 Breaststroke

Cali Condors’ Lilly King had been undefeated in her first six appearances of the season in the 200 breast, and she holds the league’s top time at 2:16.83. But here, King took a rare defeat as Iron’s Jenna Strauch and King’s Cali teammate Emily Escobedo traded the lead and then held off a furious final 50 from King. Escobedo won in 2:20.06, while King touched in 2:20.39. It was a highly unusual race for King, as she was out ahead before fading back into the pack for the middle 100, then accelerating again, indicating that maybe she was experimenting with her strategy in advance of the upcoming ISL final.

Third place went to Toronto’s Tessa Cieplucha in 2:21.49, while Strauch finished fourth in 2:21.96.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

Iron’s Erik Persson built a strong early lead in this race, while Aqua Centurions’ Arno Kamminga was sixth after 50 meters and fifth at the halfway mark, but then Kamminga surged ahead of the field over the back half of the race. Kamminga’s final 50 split of 31.08 was a full second faster than Persson’s, and he won the race in 2:02.67. Kamminga ranks third in the ISL in the event this season behind Ilya Shymanovich and Persson.

Persson placed second here in 2:03.39, and third went to Iron’s Fabien Schwingenschlogl in 2:04.06. Schwingenschlogl narrowly held off a strong finishing surge from Cali’s Nic Fink, who ended up fourth in 2:04.33.

Women’s 400 Freestyle Relay

Team Iron took the early lead here, but after the third leg, Toronto and Cali had pulled ahead of the field, with Toronto anchor Michelle Coleman going in five hundredths ahead of the Condors’ final swimmer, Olivia Smoliga. Smoliga went ahead after 50 meters of that leg, but then Coleman fought back. In the end, the Swedish swimmer got Toronto to the wall first, the time of 3:28.78 beating Cali (3:28.92) by just 14 hundredths.

Toronto’s team included Kayla Sanchez (52.36), Kasia Wasick (52.14), Louise Hansson (52.54) and Coleman (51.74), while Natalie Hinds (52.14), Erika Brown (52.23), Beata Nelson (52.72) and Smoliga (51.83) swam for Cali in the second-place effort. Third went to Iron’s Ranomi KromowidjojoBarbora SeemanovaCasey Fanz and Costanza Cocconcelli in 3:30.60.

Toronto jackpotted three teams for a 30-point total, enough to vault the Titans past Aqua Centurions and Iron into second place.

Men’s 50 Freestyle

Cali’s Justin Ress looked like he was going to take the victory in this one, but then, Iron’s Thom de Boer snuck up from the outside lane to steal the win. De Boer touched in 20.97, just ahead of Ress (21.01) and Iron teammate Maxim Lobanovszkij (21.02). De Boer won the 50 free for the first time this season, but he has actually won 50 freestyle skins on four separate occasions previously.

Women’s 50 Freestyle

The final seven swimmers in the 50 free were tightly bunched, but not Kasia Wasick. The Polish sprinter representing the Toronto Titans roared ahead of the field on the second 25 and beat out sprint legend Ranomi Kromowidjojo by almost a half-second. Wasick touched in 23.49, while Team Iron’s Kromowidjojo took second in 23.90.

Aqua Centurions’ Maria Kameneva finished third in 23.98, ahead of Cali’s Erika Brown (24.03) and Iron’s Melanie Henique (24.06).

Men’s 200 IM

Toronto’s Alberto Razzetti is undefeated in the ISL playoffs in the 200 IM, and he continued that streak with a wire-to-wire triumph. Razzetti was up on the field by more than a half second after the butterfly leg and more than a second after backstroke leg, and he held that advantage until Aqua Centurions’ Chase Kalisz made it marginally tighter on freestyle. But Razzetti came in at 1:52.38, almost a second ahead of Kalisz’s 1:53.33.

Iron’s Leonardo Santos finished third in 1:53.76, and Toronto’s Max Litchfield was fourth (1:53.98).

Women’s 200 IM

Iron’s Maria Ugolkova had the lead after the backstroke and breaststroke legs, but Aqua Centurions’ Rika Omoto was just five hundredths behind Ugolkova after breaststroke, and she pulled ahead on the freestyle leg. Omoto won the race in 2:06.45 for her first win this season — and, in fact, the first win for an Aqua Centurions swimmer in this event this season. Ugolkova placed second in 2:06.76.

Cali Condors’ Beata Nelson (2:07.47) fought off Toronto teammates Tessa Cieplucha (2:07.80) and Kayla Sanchez (2:07.84) for third. Nelson was racing for the third time in less than an hour after previously winning the 200 back and swimming on Cali’s 400 free relay.

Men’s 50 Breaststroke

The Aqua Centurions always excel in sprint breaststroke, and here, two Centurions tied for the win. 33-year-old Fabio Scozzoli and 22-year-old Nicolo Martinenghi each swam times of 25.79. Those two swimmers were four tenths ahead the rest of the field, led by the Cali Condors’ Nic Fink (26.19).

That 19-point effort for the Centurions helped Aqua leapfrog Toronto and move into second place in the team standings.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke

Following a rare loss in the 200 breast, Cali Condors’ Lilly King had a fight on her hands with Aqua Centurions’ Arianna Castiglioni in the 50-meter race, but King got the better of her Italian rival by 15 hundredths. King touched in 29.58, ahead of Castiglioni in 29.73. Both were well of their top times of the season, as King has been 29.15 and Castiglioni owns the top time of the season at 29.09.

Also breaking 30 was Iron’s Ida Hulkko, who placed third in 29.78.

Men’s 400 Freestyle Relay

Aqua Centurions is swimming lights-out in the team’s final playoff match, and here, Aqua blasted past Cali into the lead with a 48-point jackpot — which is believed to be the largest single-relay point total in the three seasons of the ISL. Aqua’s team of Thomas Ceccon (47.21), Vladislav Grinev (46.59), Szebasztian Szabo (47.03) and Alessandro Miressi 45.81) won the event in 3:06.64, almost a second and a half ahead of the field.

Iron’s Thom de BoerMarco Orsi, Maxim Lobanovszkij and Mikhail Vekovishchev took second in 3:08.00, and Cali’s Kacper MajchrzakMarcin CieslakJesse Puts and Justin Ress claimed third in 3:08.25. Ress anchored in 46.03, but that was not enough to make up the big deficit that the Condors faced.

After Cali surrendered the lead here, there will be plenty of time for the team to battle back, but the Centurions have provided an unexpected challenge in this match. Aqua has scored 177 points, which leaves them 18 ahead of Iron.

Women’s 50 Backstroke

Toronto Titans’ Kylie Masse jumped ahead of a tight field and picked up her fourth 50 backstroke win of the season. Masse came in at 26.11, two tenths ahead of Aqua Centurions’ Elena di Liddo and Cali Condors’ Maaike de Waard. Di Liddo touched in 26.32, and de Waard swam a 26.35.

Just behind were Toronto’s Louise Hansson (26.49), Cali’s Olivia Smoliga (26.54) and Iron’s Melanie Henique (26.61).

Men’s 50 Backstroke

Cali’s Coleman Stewart has yet to pick up a victory during the ISL playoff round, and he looked like he may be in position to claim one in the 50 back, but then, the two Team Iron swimmers in lanes seven and eight jumped ahead and stole the top two positions. Guilherme Basseto won in 23.11, with teammate Robert Glinta just five hundredths behind in 23.16. Stewart settled for third in 23.20, just nine hundredths away from the win.

Women’s 400 Freestyle

Cali’s Hali Flickinger only earned one point at the 100-meter checkpoint after she turned in fifth place, but Flickinger then used her consistent pace to pull well ahead of the field. Flickinger recorded a 4:01.02, just off her winning time of 4:00.82 from her ISL season debut last week. Flickinger finished 2.74 seconds ahead of the field, while Iron’s Barbora Seemanova placed second in 4:03.76.

Toronto Titans’ Julia Hassler finished third in 4:04.02 while her teammates waved “Happy Retirement” signs in her direction. Hassler admitted after the swim that it had been her final competitive race.

Holly Hibbott placed fourth for Aqua Centurions in 4:05.35, but because she was first at the 100-meter mark, she ended up with 12 points, just behind Flickinger’s 14 (even though Flickinger jackpotted three swimmers). That prevented Cali from cutting significantly into Aqua’s lead.

Men’s 400 Freestyle

The Toronto Titans currently sit in fourth place, but they scored 25 points in this race to cut into that deficit. The Titans’ Max Litchfield did not distinguish himself early on, but he surged over the second half and ended up winning by almost three seconds. Litchfield came in at 3:39.49. Only Brendon Smith and Duncan Scott have beaten that time so far this season.

Aqua Centurion’ Matteo Ciampi placed second in 3:42.44, and then Toronto got more points from Luc Kroon taking third in 3:42.70. Kroon was actually the leader after 100 meters, so he ended up scoring 13 points to lead the field. Meanwhile, Cali’s Townley Haas faded to seventh after flipping second at the 100-meter checkpoint, but Haas still ended up with six points to bolster the Condors.

Women’s 400 Medley Relay

The Cali Condors are back into the lead. The women’s medley relay squad of Beata Nelson (56.62), Lilly King (1:04.26), Kelsi Dahlia (56.04) and Erika Brown (51.71) beat the field convincingly with their time of 3:48.63, and the Condors’ B-squad (anchored by Natalie Hinds in 52.14) took fourth in 3:52.51. With Cali jackpotting the last two teams, those 34 points put the Condors 10 points in front of Aqua.

Cali’s foursome holds the world record at 3:44.52, but they will need to swim much faster next week in the ISL final to stay close to the London foursome of Kira Toussaint, Alia AtkinsonMarie Wattel and Emma McKeon.

Toronto’s Kylie MasseDominika SztanderaLouise Hansson and Michelle Coleman took second in 3:50.40, and Aqua Centurions were third with Mariia KamenevaArianna CastiglioniElena di Liddo and Federica Pellegrini. That Centurions relay swam a time of 3:50.84.

Men’s 400 Medley Relay

One race after the Cali Condors passed the Aqua Centurions in the standings, Aqua has reclaimed the lead with a 30-point jackpot win in the 400 medley relay. The Centurions’ team of Thomas Ceccon (50.40), Arno Kamminga (55.45), Matteo Rivolta (49.17) and Alessandro Miressi (46.54) finished in 3:21.56. Miressi had to fight to the finish to hold off Cali Condors’ anchor Justin Ress (45.77) and secure the jackpot to give the Centurions the lead going into the final day.

Cali’s Coleman StewartNic Fink, Jose Martinez and Ress placed second in 3:22.39, while Iron’s Lorenzo MoraBernhard ReitshammerNicholas Santos and Robert Glinta claimed third in 3:24.94.

Combined with the fifth-place finish from the team’s B-relay, the Aqua Centurions out-scored the Condors 38-14, while Team Iron scored 22 with a 3-4 finish. So going into day two, Aqua leads Cali 264-250.

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