It is rare for the Tennessee swimming and diving men or women to compete in a meet without their respective counterparts, but that very scenario will take place when the women travel to Fayetteville to face Arkansas on Saturday.
The Razorbacks join Vanderbilt as the lone SEC teams that only have a women’s team, so the Lady Vols do not encounter this situation very often.
“I can’t even remember the last time we did it like this,” diving coach Dave Parrington said. “I’m looking forward to it, and I think the women on the team are, too.”
The No. 7 Tennessee women are coming off a loss to No. 11 Virginia in a dual meet last weekend, but the Lady Vols were dealing with some sickness heading into that meet.
Head coach Matt Kredich says his team’s health has improved over the last few days.
“Knock on wood, I think we are healthy,” Kredich said. “Everybody is at least on the upswing.”
Kredich sees this meet as an opportunity for improvement on both the men’s and the women’s sides. The Tennessee men will remain in Knoxville and go through two practices this weekend by themselves.
“I think both teams are actually just looking forward to having time by themselves, with themselves,” Kredich said. “We do so much together in training groups that they don’t get to spend a lot of time just as a women’s team and a men’s team. Being able to have a couple of really good practices here just as a men’s team will be good for the guys.”
Arkansas has been hovering just outside of the CSCAA Top-25 poll this season, so it will provide yet another challenge for the battle-tested Tennessee women.
“We haven’t had any easy meets this year,” Kredich said. “The team definitely feels good when we win.”
Kredich also noted that the goal is always to learn something. Whether the team wins or loses, it is all about preparing for the championship season.
He hopes to avoid what he called a “competitive lull” against Virginia last week.
“My goal is to have it be a thing of the past,” Kredich said. “We have had some really great competition this week in practice. The intensity is definitely increasing as we get closer to championship season.”
For Parrington and the Lady Vol divers, it is all about competing at the highest level in this meet. They will go up against the Arkansas divers whom they competed against in the Tennessee Diving Invitational last weekend.
Arkansas boasts several top divers, including freshman Brooke Schultz, who finished third in the 1-meter and first in the 3-meter at the Tennessee-hosted meet.
Schultz competed at the 2017 World Championships and was a 2014 Gold medalist at the Junior World Championships on the 1-meter springboard. Her dad, Dale Schultz, is the coach of the Arkansas diving team.
“Schultz is phenomenal,” Parrington said. “She’s one of the top divers in the U.S. at the collegiate level and the U.S. Open level. We have a real tough challenge there.”
Parrington understands it will take the best effort from his divers to compete with a team that he thinks is one of the best in the country.
“Well, we are going to have to dive close to our very best,” Parrington said. “We will go there and do the very best we can. The reason they have the competition is because everybody has to get up and do their dives.”
One thing is clear: Tennessee wants to bounce back and get a win in this meet.
“This team does not like to lose, and the loss last week left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths,” Kredich said. “I think we will see a little more resolve this week.”