Tennessee Opens Season With Dominant Wins at UNC-Wilmington

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Michel Houlie of the Tennessee Volunteers -- Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

Tennessee Opens Season With Dominant Wins at UNC-Wilmington

Last season, the Tennessee women’s swim and dive team earned a narrow top-10 finish at the NCAA championships, edging out Kentucky by one point for the 10th spot, while the Volunteer men placed 20th. This year, head coach Matt Kredich’s group opened its long march to the national championships by making the seven-hour drive east on I-40 to take on UNC-Wilmington, whose second-year head coach is former NC State assistant Bobby Guntoro.

In this dual meet, Tennessee’s men swept every event and won 214-81, and the women came out on top by a score of 196-96. The top performers included Harrison Lierz, who won the 100 back (49.80) and 200 back (1:49.82), and Gus Rothrock, who won the 200 IM (1:51.82) and 200 fly (1:50.82). For the women, freshman Summer Smith swam her first meet with Tennessee and earned wins in the 500 free (4:52.73) and 1000 free (9:59.20).

Find full results here, and read the full press release from the Volunteers below:

Tennessee swimming and diving began the 2021-22 season with wins against UNC Wilmington on Friday afternoon at Seahawk Natatorium. The Vols finished first in every event en route to a 214-81 victory, while the Lady Vols cruised to a 196-96 win.

“This was a great way to start off our dual meet season,” said associate head coach Ashley Jahn. “I thought our team was very competitive. It was great to be back in Wilmington. UNCW did a phenomenal job, and I thought the competition all around was really good. Watching the men’s relay at the end, I loved the sounds. I had the thought while watching that race, hearing the environment get louder and louder, and both teams bringing a lot of energy, I thought that we really missed that last year. It was amazing. I feel blessed that we are able to be healthy and back in this environment again.”

Sophomore Harrison Lierz won three events on the day and finished second in his fourth event (200 IM). He swam leadoff in the 200 medley relay that touched the wall in 1:29.18 and notched the top times in the 100 back (49.80) and 200 back (1:49.82). Michael HoulieKayky Mota and Micah Chambers made up the rest of the medley relay team. Mota also placed first in the 100 butterfly with a time of 47.61.

Freshman Gus Rothrock had a strong showing in his collegiate debut, touching the wall first in the 200 IM (1:51.82) and 200 butterfly (1:50.25) and placing second in the 200 back (1:50.51). Senior Lyubomir Epitropov posted the fastest times in the breaststrokes, touching the wall in 54.96 in the 100 breast and in 1:59.92 in the 200 breast.

“We showed a lot of competitive resilience today, coming off a couple of days of heavy training and strenuous travel,” said associate head coach Rich Murphy. “Great competitive spirit and great team energy. We like to win the pool deck in these meets, and we saw the kind of energy from the team that will inspire races and bring out the best in each person as they swim for something bigger than themselves. We did a really good job across the board. It’s a real testament to your effort anytime you can come out and get your hand on the wall first in every event like the men did. This was a good matchup for us early in the season, allowing our newcomers to shine and our older swimmers to lead.”

In the distance freestyle events, both sophomore Rafael Ponce de Leon Castilla and freshman Summer Smith swept their respective races. Ponce de Leon touched the wall in 4:32.39 in the 500 free and 9:19.59 in the 1000 free. Making her collegiate debut, Smith won both of her races on the day, taking first in the 500 free (4:52.73) and 1000 free (9:59.20).

Ponce de Leon teamed up with Seth BaileyJordan Crooks and Scott Scanlon to make up the fastest 400 freestyle relay squad, touching the wall in 3:02.86. In his freshman debut, Crooks finished first in the 50 and 100 freestyles, with times of 20.92 and 45.66, respectively. Sophomore Will Jackson placed first in the 200 free (1:39.72).

During the diving portions of the meet, senior Grace Cable and sophomore Bryden Hattie swept both the 1-meter and the 3-meter springboards. Cable notched scores of 267.38 on the 1-meter and 303.38 on the 3-meter. Junior Elle Renner placed second on the 3-meter, posting a mark of 281.33.

Hattie recorded a pair of solid scores to start his season, with a 326.78 on the 1-meter and 369.38 on the 3-meter. The Vols finished 1, 2, 3 in both events, as sophomores Dillon Richardson and Jacob Reasor split second and third in the events. Richardson was second on the 1-meter (311.40), while Reasor took second on the 3-meter (309.45).

“It was a really good start to the season from the diving side of things,” said diving coach Dave Parrington. “It was kind of an adverse environment. No disrespect to Wilmington, but the pool is a lot smaller than what we are accustomed to. It was extremely loud. When you take everything into account, I was really happy with the divers’ performance. We had very positive attitudes and came out of the meet with four zone scorers. That was a real positive coming out of this meet. Great job by Grace and Bryden for stepping up and winning two events each.”

The Lady Vols’ signing class showed out during its first meet, as eight individual events were won by a freshman or transfer.

In the women’s freestyles, sophomore Jasmine Rumley posted the top time in the 50 (23.15), while freshman Julia Mrozinski took first in the 100 (51.45) and freshman Brooklyn Douthwright won the 200 (1:50.34). Mrozinski was also part of the fastest relay teams for the 200 medley (1:43.77) and the 400 freestyle (3:23.99). Fellow freshmen Sara Stotler and Josephine Fuller were part of the medley relay, while Stotler was also on the freestyle relay. Sophomore Jordan Aurnou-Rhees rounded out the medley relay lineup.

Freshman Amber Myers notched the fastest time in the 100 back (55.87), while graduate transfer Bayley Stewart won the 200 back (1:59.50). Freshman Ellen Walshe finished first in the 200 breast with a time of 2:16.47, and freshman Kate McCarville had the best time in the 200 IM at 2:03.87.

Sophomore Mona McSharry and graduate Tjasa Pintar were also members of the 400 freestyle relay. Pintar also took first in the 100 breast with a mark of 1:04.55. Senior Trude Rothrock won the 200 fly, touching the wall in 2:01.32.

Up next, Tennessee will take on a pair of tough opponents from the ACC in NC State (Oct. 15-16) and Louisville (Oct. 21). The meet against Louisville will be UT’s home opener for the season.

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