Monday, October 23

UCLA swim and dive show improvement despite loss

In the eyes of swim coach Cyndi Gallagher, very little was wrong with her team’s loss at the hands of USC.

UCLA lost by a score of 164.5-135.5 to the Trojans in its final meet before the Pac-10 Championships, but Gallagher had plenty to be encouraged about going forward. In all, her team posted 23 times below NCAA B standards, had 37 season-best swims and won a relay, a goal she emphasized before the meet, in the final event of the day.

“It was kind of never-give-up,” said Gallagher. “It didn’t really matter what the score was. We just had that really fighting attitude. For us, it’s definitely not the end-all. These guys had fun.”

No NCAA A-cuts were reached by either team throughout the meet, but 12 Bruins finished with individual B-cut times, led by junior Lauren Hall, who posted the marks in each of her three individual events (400 individual medley, 200 breaststroke, 200 freestyle), while also helping the 400 free relay team break the B standard.

However, Gallagher’s goal of winning a relay almost wasn’t accomplished. In the 200 medley relay, the team of junior Brittany Beauchan, senior Isabel Fischer, freshman Lindsey Marchand and sophomore Madison Fitzgerald fell short by 1.85 seconds. And in the final event of the day, the 400 free relay, USC came into the wall well ahead of UCLA, only to be disqualified after an early exchange on the final leg. And so it was UCLA’s team of freshman Emily Andelson, Fischer, freshman Laurence Delisle and Hall that took the first-place points at the end of the day.

“Don’t matter how you win it,” Gallagher said with a laugh. “Someone on their team jumped early, and it wasn’t us, that was a beauty. All last season, we were DQ’ed every relay, so that was pretty cool. Our freestyle sprinters were great.”

UCLA also had key performances from sophomore Bianca Casciari, Beauchan, sophomore Kelsey Louden and Fitzgerald. Casciari led a UCLA 1-2-3 sweep in the 100 butterfly in a B-standard time of 53.81 and also posted B-standard times in the 200 fly and 400 IM.

The team also dominated the breaststroke events on the day. Beauchan won the 100 (1:01.12) and 200 (2:11.81) breast, while Louden was close behind in both (1:02.94, 2:15.07), setting lifetime-best times in the process.

Fitzgerald took the 50 free in a time of 23.37, edging out USC’s Christel Simms by .03 seconds.

Gallagher was especially impressed with the former walk-on Louden and Casciari.

“Kelsey didn’t do very well last year, and Bianca didn’t do very well last year, and they’ve just figured it out, and I love that. I love when they figure it out,” she said.

On the diving side of the pool, UCLA failed to come up with a win in either discipline. But just like Gallagher, dive coach Tom Stebbins was extremely pleased with his divers, especially Michelle Vale, who posted third-place finishes on 1-meter and 3-meter.

“I think I see a tremendous amount of growth especially in the young kids, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for,” Stebbins said. “So while we didn’t strike everything perfectly today, we made great inroads into being consistent and being the team I think we’re capable of being at the end of the year.”

It was also senior day for three swimmers: Fischer, Alexandra Nalevanko and Kirsten Byers. Nalevanko said she was “very proud” of her team Saturday, but knows they need to improve before Pac-10 Championships in two weeks.

“I think the upperclassmen are going to help the freshmen and the sophomores really just focus these next two weeks in practice and just fine-tune the details and get our acts together,” she said. “Pac-10s, we should have lifetime swims across the board.”

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