FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The 2014 Western Athletic Conference champion Northern Arizona swimming & diving team will begin their quest towards a repeat on Oct. 25 in Albuquerque, N.M. versus New Mexico in the opening dual meet of the 2014-15 schedule. The Lumberjacks will begin the season with three consecutive dual meets on the road in what will be a challenging, yet familiar slate this upcoming season.
"Getting on the road and facing a quality opponent like New Mexico to begin the season will be good for us," said head coach Andy Johns. "The first meet of the year is always exciting and it'll be great competition. That will get us ready for the big road trip to the Northwest. The last time we were there, we were close to pulling off a win against Washington State and then the next day we got beat by Idaho, so we'd like to flip that around and have a better trip out there."
Following the annual intrasquad Pentathlon and Blue vs. Gold meets on Sept. 19 and Oct. 10 respectively, the Lumberjacks will once again spring into the season with New Mexico, a team they beat 166.5-131.5 at home in last season's opener. NAU will then head travel to the Northwest to face WAC rival Idaho and Pac-12 opponent Washington State on Nov. 7 and 8 to complete its three-meet road swing to start the schedule. Idaho, the WAC runner-up to NAU in the spring, dropped last season's dual meeting in Flagstaff, 175-125, but handed the Lumberjacks a convincing 177.5-122.5 defeat the last time the two schools met in Moscow, Idaho. That defeat followed a tough loss to Washington State back in 2012.
The Lumberjack divers will then compete at the Wildcat Diving Invite hosted by Arizona in Tucson from Nov. 20-22 before the whole squad comes back together for the home opener versus New Mexico State on Dec. 6. The Lumberjacks knocked off the Aggies, 171-129, last year in Las Cruces, N.M. and own a perfect 13-0 record over NMSU in the Wall Aquatic Center. The NAU swimmers will head to Las Vegas, Nev. for the three-day UNLV Invite a week later to face some of the toughest competition they will see all season. To conclude the 2014 calendar year, the Lumberjacks will make the trip out to San Diego, Calif. to renew their rivalry with the University of San Diego. NAU and USD have met 24 times in school history but have not competed since the 2009-10 season.
"Going back to the UNLV Invite after exams is a really nice part of our schedule," Johns said. "We did that two years ago and we had good success. Then to be able to finish off that week training in San Diego and competing against the University of San Diego will be exciting. We had a nice rivalry with them back and forth so it'll be nice to get back down there."
For the 10th consecutive year, the Lumberjacks will ring in the New Year down in Tucson with Arizona and Oregon State in an always challenging Pac-12 double dual on Jan. 2. NAU will have a short turnaround with a rare midweek meet on Wednesday, Jan. 7 versus Northern Colorado in the team's final home meet. The meet will be Senior Day for the team's two seniors, Alexis Juergens and Caitlin Wright.
After the divers complete the regular season at the Air Force Diving Invite in Colorado Springs, Colo. from Jan. 29-31, NAU will have a month to prep itself for the WAC Championships, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas from Feb. 25-28. Facing the task of replacing the squad's nine departed graduated seniors and the inherent difficulties in repeating, Johns is confident that his team will be ready for the conference championships after going through the grind of the regular season.
"It's a balanced and challenging schedule and hopefully it'll prepare us for the end of February," Johns said. "There's a lot that goes into repeating. We need to really race a lot in January and February whether that's with simulated practices or by adding another meet, but we'll be ready."
This season's NCAA Zone E Diving Regional will be held in Colorado Springs, Colo. from March 7-9 and the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships will be held in Greensboro, N.C. from March 19-21.