Before the Tennessee swimming and diving team begins thinking about their championship meets, they must first prepare for one of the best swim teams in the country.
The No. 4 Florida men and the No. 16 Florida women will come to Knoxville looking to spoil Senior Day for the No. 12 Vols and the No. 7 Lady Vols on Friday at the Allen Jones Aquatic Center.
The Gator men bested the Vols last season in Gainesville, which was Senior Day for Florida, by a score of 183-117, and the Lady Vols beat the Florida women 151-149. Things will not be any easier for Tennessee this year.
“Florida is the best team that we will have faced on the men’s side,” Tennessee head coach Matt Kredich said. “They are good across every event.”
Leading the charge for Florida on the men’s side is two-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel. He also holds the American records in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle as well as the 50-meter butterfly.
Kredich knows his men have a challenge on their hands with Dressel but is excited to see what freestyle specialist Kyle DeCoursey and butterfly specialist Ryan Coetzee can do for the Vols.
“Both of our guys (DeCoursey and Coetzee) love competition,” Kredich said. “The chance to swim against a world champion doesn’t come along very often. You got a couple choices in that situation. You can hope it goes badly for the other person, or you can hope for their best and use that to bring out your best. I think that’s the way those guys are looking at it.”
Meanwhile, the Lady Vols are desperately wanting to get back in the winning lane after dropping two of their last three meets.
Kredich thinks Senior Day and a rivalry meet will only increase this desire to win.
“Those losses haven’t sat well with our women’s team,” Kredich said. “I want to see them respond in a way that they are going to be proud of and excited about.”
In the diving well, the Tennessee men will try to repeat their performance from last year against the Gators.
Senior Liam Stone swept the springboard events, and now he is joined by redshirt junior Colin Zeng, who has won the SEC Diver of the Week award six times this season.
“We haven’t backed off in our training and in the weight room,” diving coach Dave Parrington said. “Hopefully they will have some good legs under them tomorrow.”
Florida sophomore diver Brooke Madden swept the springboard events on the women’s side last year when the two teams met, and Parrington expects another challenge for his divers this year.
“She is a really doing a great job for Florida,” Parrington said. “I expect to see a battle between her and Rachel (Rubadue) and Ana (Hernandez).”
Liam Stone is the sole senior diver for the Vols. In his time at Tennessee, Stone has left an impact on other divers, and Parrington knows how much Stone means to the program.
“When you think about what he has brought to the program pretty much from day one … he’s brought a lot of great results to the program and incredible leadership,” Parrington said.
When asked, Kredich smiled as he thought about the growth he has seen in his senior swimmers during their time in Knoxville.
Coetzee, David Heron, Austin Hirstein, Sam McHugh, Peter John Stevens are the rest of the seniors on the men’s side. Katie Armitage, Micah Bohon and Alex Cleveland are the seniors on the women's side.
“For me, I have seen this (Senior Day) a number of times, but it never wears off,” Kredich said. “It always humbles me to realize what an impactful four years this can be. It is satisfying on every level to look at them as almost finished products of the University of Tennessee and see how well-equipped they are to enter the rest of their lives.”