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Michigan falls to Penn State in tight Senior Day contest

BY JACOB KEIMACH
For the Daily
Published January 30, 2011

It was a bittersweet day at Canham Natatorium.

After four straight victories, the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team (4-3 Big Ten, 6-6 overall) could not edge Penn State (1-1, 7-2) on Saturday to prolong its winning streak. Though the team posted its best time of the year in the final race, the Wolverines' 400-meter relay team fell just short, losing the day by just three points, 123-120.

Emotions were high following the introduction of seniors Natasha Moodie and Rachel Ropeik on Senior Day, and the team responded with early and consistent energy.

Out of the blocks, sophomore Adrienne Bicek vaulted her team to an early lead with an impressive victory in the 1000-meter freestyle event. Moodie followed suit with a narrow victory over teammate Alexa Mehesan in the 50-meter freestyle.

Bicek pointed to her school and team as sources for her success.

“I just wanted to go out and represent Michigan,” Bicek said. “Having more energy and emotion on the pool deck made it that much more exciting.”

Ropeik echoed her teammate’s words following her strong performance en route to a victory in the three-meter dive and a second-place finish behind junior teammate Amanda Lohman in the one-meter dive.

“This was our last meet of the year here, and having all of the fans and having such a big meet was so meaningful,” Roepeik said.

Michigan fans filled the bleachers opposing the pool, eager to help the team by providing energy in the form of cheers and praise.

Michigan diving coach KZ Li was complimentary of his senior captain and the Roepick-Lohman tandem, calling his premier diver “a great leader,” and acknowledging that it will be “really important for the two of them to perform well for the team” if Michigan women are to have success in the upcoming Big Ten tournament.

Just a few short hours after easily defeating in-state rival Michigan State on Friday night, the Wolverines raced well, despite fatigue. Michigan swimming coach Jim Richardson never doubted his team’s heart and desire to compete.

“They’re gonna empty everything they have in the tank, every time out,” said Richardson. “It was important for us to go back-to-back in less than 24 hours and to see how well we could compete. I’m not disappointed at all in how we competed and how we swam.”

Fans rose to their feet for the final event of the day, a deciding relay that ultimately fell in favor of Penn State by .5 seconds. Moodie anchored her team with a strong 100-meter sprint, but her effort came up short and the Nittany Lions secured a marginal victory.

At the end of the day, emotion and stellar performances from the diving team were not enough to lift the Wolverines past a strong Penn State team.

But excitement and drama were not absent from the Natatorium Saturday afternoon. Even after a tough loss, Michigan faithful have much to appreciate as well as to look forward to.

“That’s what swimming should be about right there," Richardson said.