Feb. 3, 2006
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - No. 14 Purdue (5-5) completes its regular season Saturday with a 10 a.m. dual meet at No. 11 Indiana (6-3). Although the teams are close in ranking, Purdue head coach Dan Ross knows his team goes in as the underdog.
"All we're trying to do is keep getting faster," said Ross. "We want to continue to post times that are better than what we had at the Purdue Invitational in the fall. We want to post our best relay times of the season, and have set up individual goals for everyone to reach."
The Hoosiers have assembled one of its best teams in years, one which Ross thinks will win the Big Ten Championship. Indiana was the runner-up to Minnesota last season, 720-717, losing on the final race - the 400 freestyle relay.
IU's depth in the freestyle should tilt the scales in its favor this weekend and at the conference championships. Junior Colin Russell is the Hoosier's ace in the sprints and is backed up by sophomore Todd Patrick in the 50, 100 and 200. Indiana owns another ace in the distance freestyle with Sergiy Fesenko claiming the team's top times in the 500 and mile.
"This is the third straight top-11 team (Michigan, Minnesota) we've faced, which is good for us, because there will be no surprises once we get to Big Tens," said Ross. "We'll come back to Bloomington in a few weeks, knowing exactly what we're up against."
The Boilermakers match up better with IU in the stroke events, with Joe Colley and Romain Maire anchoring the backstroke and Giordan Pogioli and Jin-Soo Kim giving them a one-two punch in the breaststroke.
Saturday's dual is the final regular-season meeting between rivals Pogioli and Kevin Swander. Pogioli currently sports faster times in both the 100 (54.91 to 55.05) and 200 breast (1:56.59 to 2:02.04), but Swander got the best of the Boiler senior at last year's Big Ten Championships.
At last year's dual, Pogioli beat Swander in the 200 breast by almost two seconds, recording a season-best mark of 1:57.90.
Pogioli's time in the 200 breast this season in the third fastest in the country behind Northwestern's Mike Alexandrov and Alabama's Vlad Polyakov. His 100 breast time is ranked 15th.
In the butterfly, Purdue will certainly gain a few extra points from the addition of freshman Chris Etherington, and in the individual medley, Purdue can double up its points with strong efforts from Maire and Pogioli.
Purdue diving also can expect a tough point battle, as its four-man corps of Steven LoBue, Josh Karshen, J.R. Hillis and Zach Schultz matches skills with a Hoosier roster comprised of six NCAA Zone Qualifiers. IU divers Brian Mariano, Taylor Roberts, Ryan Fagan and Jesse Rappaport all scored off one or more boards at last year's conference championship meet.