Olivia Kassouni Hits NCAA Zone Mark, Illinois Tops Iowa State

Photo Credit: University of Illinois Athletics

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois’ Olivia Kassouni qualified for the NCAA Zone Diving Championships in the 3-meter diving event Friday night to lead the Fighting Illini to a victory over Iowa State in the team’s first home meet of the season. Illinois came out ahead 168-132 in the meet.

Illinois Press Release

The Fighting Illini swimming and diving team got to swim in front of the home crowd for the first time this season. Illinois welcomed Iowa State to the ARC Pool on Friday afternoon, and came away with a 168-132 win. The Orange and Blue improve to 4-3 in dual meets this season.

“We were a little rusty with our racing and that showed in a lot of the details and how they were swimming their races,” said head coach Sue Novitsky. ” I thought we could clean some stuff up, but that will come by more racing these next couple of weeks. We had some people really step up and swim really well for the amount of work we have done. They were tough all the way through the lineup.”

The event started off well for the Illini, as the quartet of Alison Meng, Samantha Stratford, Lori Lynn and Gabrielle Bethke won the 200 medley relay in 1:44.71. Gabbie Stecker followed that up with a win in the 1000 free, stopping the clock at 10:15.58. Stratford came back from her leg of the opening relay to win the 200 free in 1:52.36, and Meng did the same in the 100 back, clocking 56.04. The Cyclones won five of the next six events closing the gap in the team score. Lynn won the 200 fly in 2:04.90, the lone Illini to win an event in that stretch.

Stratford won the 200 breaststroke in 2:19.95, stopping the Cyclone run. Stratford’s win started a stretch where Illinois won five the meet’s final six events. Lynn added the 100 fly title to the 200 fly title she won earlier, winning in 56.57. In the three-meter dive, Olivia Kassouni scored 285.30 to win the event. The mark also qualifies her for the NCAA Zone Diving Championships on March 12-14. Startford added a 200 IM title to her previous victories, registering a time of 2:05.31. The 400 freestyle relay team of Meng, Stecker, Bethke and Megan Marchuk closed the evening with a win, stopping the clock at 3:28.66.

“Iowa State made a run there in the middle of the meet,” noted Novitsky. “We were able to fight them off and finish out really tough with wins in the last two events.”

The Illini are back in action tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. Iowa, Illinois’ first Big Ten dual opponent, will be coming into the ARC Pool as the 21st-ranked team in the CSCAA rankings.

Iowa State Press Release

The Iowa State swimming and diving team fell to Illinois, 168-132, Friday night in the ARC Pool, dropping the Cyclones to 5-3 overall on the season. Heading into the matchup, Iowa State had only lost one road dual dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season.

“We didn’t have crisp turns and didn’t finish well, so it’s just a matter of doing a better job on the details, because it’s a meet we easily could have won,” Iowa State head coach Duane Sorenson said after the meet.

The momentum swung in Illinois’ favor early in the meet, as the Illini claimed the first four events on the evening, but Iowa State freshman Kasey Roberts raced to a first-place finish in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:06.16 to end the streak. Roberts also posted a second-place performance in the 200 breaststroke in a time of 2:20.54.

“After training trip, myself included, the whole team is just getting back at it on campus. We’re all really tired,” Roberts said, “but I’m proud of how everyone powered through it at the end and had a really good meet overall.”

The Illini carried an 85-65 lead into the first break, but the Cyclones responded with first-place performances by Amanda Paulson in the 100 free (0:51.87), Marissa Engel in the 100 back (2:01.70) and Karyl Clarete in the 500 free after the break (5:01.28).

“We talked about the back-half – back-halving our races and back-halving the meet,” Iowa State assistant head coach Kelly Nordell said. “They take a lot of pride in that, and they just stepped up and got a little more energy for those first few races after the break.”

In the diving well, Iowa State sophomore Julie Dickinson posted first and second-place performances on the one and three-meter boards with scores of 259.57 and 270.90, respectively.

The Cyclones return to Beyer Hall on Friday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. to host instate foe Northern Iowa, ISU’s first home event since defeating North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha on Oct. 31. Iowa State then welcomes West Virginia for Senior Day on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 11 a.m.

Results: Iowa State vs. Illinois