FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – With a youth-heavy roster this season, the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team will gain even more valuable experience this week with a second straight road trip. The Lumberjacks' competition will not get any easier, as the Blue & Gold prepares to face Washington State and Idaho on Thursday at 5 p.m. and Friday at 4 p.m. respectively.
The Lumberjacks are coming off a narrow 156.5-140.5 loss to New Mexico this past Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M. Despite the loss, NAU swept the WAC Swimmer and Diver of the Week awards with junior Alina Staffeldt and sophomore Christina Torrente honored for their performances against the Lobos. Staffeldt posted victories in the 100 and 200 butterfly as well as the 100 freestyle, while Torrente won the 3-meter competition and posted NCAA Zone qualifying scores in both diving events.
Although the 'Jacks have yet to claim a dual victory, Staffeldt and Torrente have been two of many standout performers for the Lumberjacks through their first three dual meet results against Arizona, Hawaii and New Mexico. On the swimming side, junior Kimmy Richter placed second in the 500 and 1000 freestyle last weekend, while senior Urte Kazakeviciute earned second-place finishes in both breaststrokes. Of the team's freshmen, Fernanda Montiel is off to an impressive start to her career notching a second-place finish in the 200 backstroke and a third-place finish in the 100 against New Mexico in addition to a fourth-place 200 back finish against Arizona and Hawaii.
The Lumberjack divers stole the show last weekend with Torrente, senior Alexa Geiger and sophomores Tanya Kurach and Raquel Gonzales all earning NCAA Zone qualifying scores on both 1-meter and 3-meter. Along with Torrente's 3-meter win, Geiger ensured an NAU diving sweep against New Mexico by taking the 1-meter competition. Kurach placed second to her teammates on both boards, and also has won a dual meet event herself early this season (1-meter versus Arizona and Hawaii).
First up for the 'Jacks this week is Washington State, who is coming off one of its biggest wins in program history. The Cougars upset No. 23 UCLA last Saturday, 143-119, at home marking their first ever win over the Bruins. Washington State is 1-3 this season with losses to fellow Pac-12 foes USC, Stanford and Cal and own a 7-2 all-time mark versus NAU. The last time these two teams met was two years ago in which NAU fell 181-80 to Washington State. The Lumberjacks last defeated the Cougars in 2011 by a 161-133 decision.
"Washington State is really tough and just beat UCLA for the first time ever," said head coach Andy Johns. "We swim them after a long day of travel, so we're just looking to go out there and improve on the little things we need to work on like race strategies and working in and out of the walls."
A date with Idaho is slated for the following day, as NAU will compete on consecutive days for the first time this season. After having the first day off against Washington State (the Cougars do not field a diving team), NAU's divers will join the mix and hope to provide a boost to the 'Jacks against its WAC rival. The Vandals traveled to Greeley, Colo. last week and picked up a pair of wins over conference opponents Northern Colorado, 171-70, and New Mexico State, 123-119. NAU defeated Idaho last season, 169.5-102.5, at home and has won the last three meetings and nine of 10 all-time.
"Idaho presents different sets of challenges, but it's good preparation for us because we have to get ready to go back-to-back," Johns said. "If we swim a little better than we did last week, we'll have a good showing in Idaho. Our divers are a big part of our success, and (diving coach) Nikki (Huffman) is doing a good job with her crew as usual. We just a lot of young swimmers who are still learning what swimming in college is all about."