Jan. 18, 2014
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - The Colorado State Rams celebrated Senior Day on Saturday with one of the best gifts a team can get, earning a 185-113 victory over New Mexico. With the victory, CSU improved to 5-3 in dual meets, continuing its best start to a season since 2009-10.
Despite dropping the meet's first three events, CSU responded with four consecutive first-place finishes, winning the 200 Freestyle (Elizabeth Prasse, 1:56.37), 100 Backstroke (Jessica Shepard, 56.94), 100 Breaststroke (Cristina Bassani, 1:05.54) and 200 Butterfly (Megan Llyod, 2:08.91).
"I knew New Mexico would be tough," Head Coach Christopher Woodard said. "Kunio (Kono, New Mexico's head coach) always has his girls ready, and they came out and blew the doors off that 200 Medley Relay and it certainly put us back on our heels a little bit. Then they followed it up with a great 1000 (Freestyle). I'm sure there was every reason to be worried, but I think our kids rebounded very ably."
The Rams increased their lead with big swims in their stroke events, sweeping the 200 Backstroke, 200 Breaststroke and 200 IM. CSU also locked the Lobos out of first and second in the 100 Backstroke, 100 Breaststroke and 100 Freestyle.
"They just continue to build momentum and confidence," Woodard said of his team. "I think what's most impressive in swimming any conference opponent is when you can go 1-2 in an event, or 1-2-3. That's a huge accomplishment, and it was coming from all people in all places. I'm very pleased."
The diving squad also had a strong afternoon, earning themselves six season bests and seven NCAA Zones qualifying scores. Melissa Bollig, a transfer from New Mexico, qualified for the first time with season bests in both events. The junior contributed to the victory with a third- and fourth-place finish in 1- and 3-Meter, respectively.
Fresh off her honor as Mountain West Diver of the Week, Ariana Milone set her second-highest score of the season on 3-Meter boards (304.20) and a lifetime best on the 1-Meter springboard (294.08). Milone's 1-Meter performance is the second-highest score in CSU history, and was just shy of breaking Erica Torgrude's record of 298.73, set in 1996. Milone earned 13 total points for the Rams on the day.
"Ariana went up against a girl from New Mexico (Megan Harper) who is really good and has been very good for a long time," head diving coach Kevin Witt said. "It was only a four-point difference between first and second place on 3-Meter. There was just one little thing that if we could take it back she probably would have won. She came back after that and won 1-Meter, and it was a career best and only a couple points off of our school record. She did great; I'm very happy."
The Rams celebrated their Senior Day, sending off four of their top athletes - Yana Garvey, Madeline Mastrup, Ailey Ruger and Maxelise Thorn. The seniors won't be out of the pool quite yet, however. CSU will compete in three more dual meets before the Mountain West Championships (Feb. 19-22 in San Antonio, Texas).
Considering the team's steady improvement, the Rams should be in a good spot heading into the Championships.
"Dual-meet wins aren't always indicative of what a team can do at conference because it's not all about depth, it's a lot about your top end and scoring points, and how quick your relays are," Woodard said. "I think I do have a lot more confidence in my girls' ability to execute race strategy and rebound from any disappointing performances, and that's really key in a four-day meet. I know we will see an even tougher New Mexico at conference, so we will take the win now and prepare for February."
With Saturday's victory, CSU improved to 31-2 all-time against New Mexico, and avenged its loss to the Lobos from a year ago, the Rams' first since 1993-94.
The Rams will return to the pool Saturday, facing Border War rival Wyoming in Laramie.