SIU Swimming & Diving Dominates Evansville in Final Home Meet

CARBONDALE, Ill. February 4. AFTER tough losses to Western Kentucky and Missouri State in the previous two weeks, the Southern Illinois University swimming & diving teams ended the season on a high note Saturday, dominating the Evansville Purple Aces in the final meet before the Missouri Valley Conference Championship / Invitational.

The men's team finished with a 115-80 victory over Evansville while the women pulled out a 132-95 win.

The Salukis won every event that it participated in except the 100-Yard Freestyle.

"I was very pleased with the intensity that we raced with today. We're in the beginnings of resting and that can really throw the body in the way it feels and responds until it's fully rested. I was really pleased with the intensity, that's what I explained to them that they had to have – the most important thing," said SIU Head Coach Rick Walker.

The day's win was also topped off with three NCAA provisionally-qualifying times or scores.

Leading the way was sophomore Stephan Ackerman. The South Africa native won the 100-Yard Butterfly with a time of 48.46. His time is two-tenths of a second better than the NCAA provisionally-qualifying time and is good enough to tie for third at SIU all-time.

Southern Illinois' divers continued to post top times as Cristina Curtuneanu and Brandon Birchak posted a couple more NCAA-qualifying performances.

Curtuneanu scored a 276.075 on the 1-Meter Dive, winning the event and passing the NCAA provisionally-qualifying mark of 265. Her score also moves her into fourth all-time at SIU in the 1-Meter (6 dives).

Birchak posted his second NCAA provisionally-qualifying score of the season on the 3-Meter board. He won the event with a score of 322.875, passing the NCAA mark of 320.

The day was also a special as the team recognized its 14 seniors. Briley Bergen, Melissa Hanson, Laura Hill, Jennifer Janssen, Kelsey Kinsella, Elizabeth McGowan and Mary Millard all swam in their last regular-season events at Edward J. Shea Natatorium for the women's team.

Andrew Flor, Miguel King, Bryan Riekena, T.J. Rietveld, Jason Sigler, Christian Tinajero and Andrew Wenger all swam in their last event's for the men's team.

"Each one of them has a very special place in my heart and I will cherish that forever. I just hope that they pull it together and finish out in fine fashion," said Walker of the seniors.

For the women, Abby Blank was the only multiple-event winner as she took top honors in the 400-Yard Individual Medley and the 100-Yard Butterfly.

Others winning events for the women were Isabel Madeira (200 Free), Gabriela Flores (50 Free), Julie Ju (100 Free), Kelly Dvorak (100 Back), Bergen (500 Free) and Katie Lowry (100 Breast).

Senior Riekena was the only multiple-event winner for the men's team. He posted the top times in the 50-Yard Freestyle and the 100-Yard Breaststroke. Riekena was also a member of the winning 200-Yard Medley Relay and 200-Yard Freestyle Relay teams.

Also winning events for the men's team were King (200 Free), Tinajero (400 IM), Wenger (100 Free), Alexandre Marrucho (100 Back) and Vinicius Waked (500 Free).

With the regular season coming to an end and the team beginning preparations for the MVC Championship/Invitational, Walker is optimistic following Saturday's dual meet.

"I feel good. Everything that I heard from the swimmers coming off today is exactly what you want to heat," said Walker.

The teams take next week off and return to action Feb. 16-18. The women will compete in the MVC Championship while the men compete in the MVC Invitational.

The three-day event is set to take place in Carbondale, Ill. at the Dr. Edward J. Shea Natatorium for the 12th-consecutive year.