GVSU S&D teams make every meter count in loss to rival

Pete Barrows

The Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s swim and dive teams have one month and a whole lot of motivation to prepare for the GLIAC Championships in Geneva, Ohio.

With every stroke through every practice and dual meet until then, the pace quickens and the yardage separating the Lakers from the touch and a potential conference title shrinks.

“We’ll start cutting back the amount of yards we do in training,” GVSU head coach Andy Boyce said. “Each week will be a little bit less for the next month. We’ll rest our kids up and hopefully have great performances at the conference championships.

“I’m confident we will.”

GVSU traveled to Detroit on Saturday, but could not catch up to archrival Wayne State University after a day of swimming. WSU won the men’s GLIAC dual over the Lakers 153-147, while the Warrior women claimed a 178-122 victory.

The GVSU men outswam WSU by a 141-121 margin, but it was the diving that cost the Lakers in the end as the Warriors outscored GVSU 32-6 off the plank.

“We came out a little flat at the beginning,” Boyce said. “The times we’re OK, but the intensity was not what we needed for one of our big rivals. We called a team meeting to pull things together and as the meet went on, we got better.”

In total, GVSU won seven events on the men’s side, including both the 200 medley and freestyle relays.

Sophomore Gianni Ferrero won three individual events (200 free, 500 free, 200 IM), while junior Milan Medo won the 200 breaststroke and was a member of the winning 200 freestyle relay quartet.

“We just came off our training trip a couple of weeks ago, which is always hard — we train a ton down there — so to have a big meet like this so quickly afterwards; I think we did well,” senior Ellen Wiese said. “Although we didn’t win, I think we really know now what we’ll be up against in conference and we came home with some confidence.

“I think we’ll give them (WSU) a pretty good race when it comes around.”

The Laker women won five events on the day, including two victories from senior Danielle Vallier (100 and 200 breaststroke) and sophomore Taylor Wiercinski (1 and 3-meter diving), who also set a pair of school records in defeating former first team All-American Paige Kortman.

“I was ecstatic breaking the record and it’ll definitely be something I’ll remember, especially doing it against our biggest rival in the conference,” Wiercinski said. “I just felt like I had to perform my best to get the point we needed to beat Wayne, which unfortunately didn’t happen, but I am very satisfied with how I dove.”

Against an improved WSU squad, both schools demonstrated their accelerated growth. With Wiercinski’s two marks established during the meet, there is not a single GVSU record left on the women’s side older than 2009.

For the GVSU men, no record is older than 2012, and the times should continue to fall as the season progresses.

“Both teams are much faster than they were a year ago at this point and that’s what’s nice about our conference,” Boyce said. “Each year, it gets better and we’re not plateauing — not this season, as a team or collectively as a program.”

In a day not categorized by particularly speedy times, sophomore Kirsten Emerson made her return from a rib injury after a 10-week hiatus and performed well in both the 500 and 1000 — an encapsulation of a team getting healthy, and hopefully hungry, at the opportune time. With only a month left remaining before the championship, a tapered practice regiment will be implemented as the Lakers continue to gear up to make their final push.

Only 18 student-athletes, apiece, for the men’s and women’s teams will score at the conference meet, and as it stands, a majority of those 18 spots are still up for grabs.

“They pushed us, and we pushed them — we make each other better,” Boyce said. “Obviously we would have liked to have been on the winning side of things, but it’s a learning experience. Hopefully it gives us a little bit more fire for the conference championships, which is our focus.”

Only two dual meets remain on the schedule for GVSU, beginning with the University of Indianapolis, formerly of the GLIAC, Saturday. The Lakers will make the five-hour drive down in the morning to make the 1 p.m. start time, and then trek back home the same day.

“It’s not a conference matchup for us anymore, but it’s still a really strong Division II meet,” Boyce said. “They’re (UIndy) very strong on both the men’s and women’s side and we’re looking forward to seeing how we do with a long day of travel.

“We’re excited to see who’s going to step up.”