The annual Orange and White intrasquad meet kicked off the start of the season for the Tennessee swimming and diving team on Friday at Allan Jones Aquatic Center.
With the series tied 3-3 since the meet moved to a combined men’s and women’s scoring format, the orange team took a 4-3 lead with a 314-276 win.
Senior diver Rachel Rubadue took first in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives, establishing her status as a co-captain this year.
“Rachel’s been named a captain on the women’s side, so this is new territory for her, she’s leading by example and I’m very pleased with that,” diving coach Dave Parrington said.
On the men’s side, freshman swimmer Matthew Wade won the 3-meter dive, following the example of senior Colin Zeng.
“I was very happy with Matt, he pulled out the win there on the final event,” Parrington said. “I was really happy with Colin throwing a front 4-and-a-half as his final dive—that kind of opened the door for Matt and Matt stepped right through in the final round.”
With five seniors on the diving team alone, their improvement during the off-season came into fruition in the first meet of the season.
“You know we’ve been training pretty hard very early in the season, so we did some kind of different stuff today,” Parrington said. “But a few of them did some things we haven’t even seen in practice so it was good.”
Associate women’s head coach, Ashley Jahn, said she is excited to see the freshmen begin their journey under the leadership of two senior co-captains, Madeline Banic and Rubadue.
“Our freshmen, it was great to see them in competition wearing orange or white for the first time, that was a lot of fun, they did a lot of things really well,” Jahn said. “I think we’re going to have a very good season.”
Sinclair Larson, a freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina, made her debut for the Lady Vols at the Orange and White meet, while also contributing to the expected success of the freshman class.
“Sinclair won one of her events but man, they all showed a lot of really good stuff,” Jahn said.
A new season brings an off-season’s amount of change and improvement to a team, in addition to the new freshmen. The collegiate swim season spans many months from the time of exhibitions to the NCAA championships, leaving a specific window for training and for new leaders to emerge.
“Everyone being one year older… I think we’ve got a lot of great leadership on the team,” Jahn said. “We’re really excited for our two female captains, Maddie Banic and Rachel Rubadue, but then the supporting roles of the juniors and sophomores; it’s a really good group.”
Although it was the first exhibition meet of the season, veteran swimmer Taylor Abbott showcased his talent and devotion to his team. Now a junior, Abbott has competed in three events each year at Orange and White—and has won them all.
Associate head coach for the men’s team, Lance Asti, noted that Abbott is now nine for nine in wins at this meet.
“Nine for nine, that’s a great stat,” Asti said. “But you know at the end of the day we just want him to come out and compete. He’s a great competitor and he’s a real spark plug for our team whether it’s in Orange and White or in dual meets. He’s a guy that loves to compete.”
Asti said Abbott has demonstrated dedication to constantly improving himself, and he leads by example.
“He looks to get better at everything he does; it doesn’t matter if it’s in water or out, on land, in dry land, nutrition, sleep…that kid does everything he can to figure out how to improve,” Asti said.
Men’s co-captain Matthew Dunphy also led his team by winning three events, culminating in a victorious 200-yard IM.
Under the wing of Abbott and Dunphy are numerous freshmen that are learning how the program works and what it takes to compete at a higher level. As they adjust to life outside and inside the pool, one Jackson, Mississippi native showed out at his first meet.
“Eien McGee won that fly, that’s a nice thing to see some young guys get in there and get a win,” Asti said.
Due to the after-effects of Hurricane Florence, the previously scheduled open-water meet at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington was cancelled, making October 25 the team’s first home meet: a dual meet against Louisville.
The Vols will open the regular season against the Cardinals at Allan Jones Aquatic Center at 2:00 p.m.