PHILADELPHIA - The women's swimming team opens the month of February with a pair of road dual meets on back-to-back days, facing West Chester on Friday at 5 p.m., followed by La Salle (video)on Saturday at 12 p.m. This is the ninth consecutive year that Penn and West Chester have faced each other, with the Quakers winning the previous eight meetings. The current series with La Salle dates back even further, with the teams meeting every season since 2000-01. The Quakers are undefeated against the Explorers in that time as well.
Penn put together a 1-3 mark against Ivy League opponents in January, with a shorthanded lineup falling to Brown and Harvard two weeks ago. Now with the expected return of those missing pieces, the Quakers - 3-5 entering the weekend - hope to even their dual meet record on the season. Shelby Fortin has already submitted times that rank in the top ten in the Ivy League in six events this season. Freshmen such as Lauren Church, Annie McCotter and Sydney Stinner have all had significant impacts for the squad as well.
West Chester brings a 6-1 record in dual meets into the weekend, including a narrow win earlier in the year over Lehigh. The Golden Rams have also knocked off Division I opponents in Rutgers, Drexel and Saint Peter's at the Frank Elm Invitational. After finishing eighth at the last season's Division II NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, WCU seems primed for another high finish. Among the schools in the PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference), West Chester has the best swim this season in five of 14 individual events, plus another 12 that rank second or third in the league. Alexis Grier and Kassandra McNichol have already recorded Division II 'A' times and are guaranteed spots in this year's national meet.
La Salle comes into the weekend at 6-5 in dual meets, moving above .500 its last time out after defeating Loyola (MD), 180-116. The Explorers have the fastest time in the Atlantic 10 in three events, with Colleen Larkin (4:54.46 in the 500 Freestyle), Elizabeth Jordan (1:03.30 in the 100 Breaststroke) and Jessica Simunek (2:16.99 in the 200 Breaststroke) all leading the league. Others, such as Katie Snee in the sprint freestyle races and Greta Reichert in the distance events will also challenge the Red and Blue. La Salle will likely put everything they have into Saturday as this is the last competition for the Explorers before the Atlantic 10 Championships later this month.
This weekend marks the final dual meets of the season for the Red and Blue. In two weeks' time, Penn will send select members of the team to compete in the Cavalier Invite on the campus of the University of Virginia. The Ivy League Championships then run from Feb. 28-March 2 from Princeton's DeNunzio Pool.