FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – At the conclusion of university finals week, the Northern Arizona swimming & diving team will have one final test to close out 2016 on Friday when they travel to Tempe to take on Arizona State. The Lumberjacks and their in-state neighbor to the south will square off at the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center on the Arizona State campus beginning at 2 p.m.
"Exam week rest is always a little different because you don't always know how you're going to respond, but we have a chance to be pretty good against really good competition," said head coach Andy Johns. "It's really good experience to compete against better teams. We're excited to compete against another high quality opponent and for our top-end girls, it could be a really good measuring stick."
The dual meet – the first between the 'Jacks and their Pac-12 foe Sun Devils since 2013 – will serve as a solid final assessment for NAU before it heads into the holiday break to wrap up the first half of their season.
The Lumberjacks are coming off a 168-127 victory over WAC rival New Mexico State at home on Dec. 3. NAU won 13 of 16 events with senior Alexa Geiger and juniors Alina Staffeldt, Claire Hammond and Kimmy Richter each accounting for a pair of victories. The win was NAU's second straight improving its dual record to 2-4 this season.
NAU's divers have won seven of eight dual meet events this season, but will be without Geiger on Friday. Geiger, owner of four of those seven diving dual event victories, will be competing at the USA Diving Winter National Championships this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Still, the 'Jacks will pose a formidable challenge to the Sun Devils with sophomores Tanya Kurach and Christina Torrente among the group who will compete on the springboards in Tempe. Kurach and Torrente have combined to win three dual meet events themselves.
Staffeldt swept the butterfly events versus New Mexico State as she has done in three of her last four dual meets. Overall, she has posted a team-high 10 dual meet event wins entering the final meet of the calendar year. She continues to lead the Western Athletic Conference with times of 54.48 in the 100 fly and 2:00.18 in the 200 fly.
Richter and senior Urte Kazakeviciute have each won six dual meet events to rank behind Staffeldt, and both find themselves at the top of the WAC's top times list. Richter is first in the conference in the 1000 freestyle (10:16.61) and the mile (17:01.32), while ranking second in the 500 free (4:55.08) and fourth in the 200 free (1:51.08). Kazakeviciute is fourth in the 200 breaststroke (2:14.34) and sixth in the 100 breast (1:03.47).
Friday's meet will also present a number of Lumberjacks with the opportunity to swim close to home. NAU has seven athletes – sophomore Raquel Gonzales, freshman Alice Hick, junior Allison Mann, junior Audrey Mann, freshman Emily Martin, freshman Erin Spielman and sophomore Sarah Takach – from the greater Phoenix area.
Arizona State finished eighth in the Pac-12 last season and has collected wins in three of five dual meets with victories over Utah, BYU and Denver. The Sun Devils have dropped their last two duals at USC and UCLA during the first weekend of November. Most recently, Arizona State placed fourth in the swimming-only Art Adamson Invitational while the divers competed at the Texas Diving Invitation during the weekend of Nov. 17-19.
NAU has won just one of 18 all-time meetings with Arizona State with its lone win coming in the 2012-13 season opener at home, 57-49. Friday will mark the 11th meet between the two teams in Tempe.