Women's swimming and diving take aim at Spartans in home opener

BY TORK MASON | OCTOBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa women's swimming and diving team will enter Saturday's dual meet with a goal of taking the next step in its development, and the Hawkeyes say they're confident they can achieve that goal.

Iowa will host Michigan State — a team against which it has fared well in the past — at 11 a.m. in the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center.

The Black and Gold are coming off of a dominating performance at Wisconsin on Oct. 20; the Hawkeyes won 15 of 16 events, and freshman Becky Stoughton broke the Wisconsin Natatorium pool record in the 1,000 freestyle en route a 224-74 victory.

The Spartans, meanwhile, haven't competed since their 247-215-88 double-dual win over Oakland (Mich.) and Cleveland State on Oct. 8.

But the Hawkeyes say they expect the Spartans to perform well.

"As a team, I think we're better [than Michigan State]," senior captain Daniela Cubelic said. "They have some strengths that will be harder for us to overcome — their breaststrokers and their sprint freestylers are pretty good. Those are a couple areas that we can focus on and try to shut them out in those areas."

If recent history is any indication, the Hawkeyes may have reason to be confident. The team topped the Spartans in East Lansing, Mich., in October 2010, 175-125, and did it again at the Big Ten meet, 151-86.

Head coach Marc Long said the season is still young, but he wants to see his team's ability to adapt.

"They've been training for a while, and we have the intrasquad and one road meet under our belts," he said. "Now, it's time to see them in different situations."

Diving coach Bob Rydze said his team hasn't hit its stride yet, but it's typical for diving squads to not be focused on competition at this point in the season.

This early in the year, Rydze has his divers in their "dry land" program, in which they focus on developing strength and refining their fundamentals. Because of the fatigue created by the program, the team has worked mainly on its "required," or basic, dives. The Hawkeyes are just now getting beginning work on their "optional" dives, which are what they perform in competitions.

"We're not changing anything for any of the dual meets," Rydze said. "We've got our periodization program, and we're going to stay on that program."

The meet also marks the Hawkeyes' Big Ten home-opener, and the Hawkeyes are excited about the opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd.

"Just having a lot of black and gold surrounding you reminds you of what you're representing, and you think about that during your race," Cubelic said.

Long said the team always seems more relaxed when swimming in its own pool because there's a level of comfort that can be found in sleeping in a familiar bed and not having to stray away from routine — and he said the support doesn't hurt, either.

"It's always a little bit special to be at home and have your family come in, extra fans, and classmates," he said. "It's just more relaxed when we're at home."

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