Swimming & Diving Squares Off With Arizona, Oregon State on Friday

Tanya Kurach
Tanya Kurach

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The New Year guarantees three things every year: excitement, optimism and a Northern Arizona swimming & diving trip to Tucson. For the 12th straight year, the Lumberjacks will make their annual trek south to square off against Arizona and Oregon State this Friday. The double dual, also featuring New Mexico State, will begin at 12 p.m. at UA's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.

"We got a lot of great work in during our six days in Tempe (before the break)," said head coach Andy Johns. "Since we've been back, we've been refocusing and sharpening some things. Our focus is really on Oregon State and we're looking forward to getting two in a row on them on Friday. We line up well with them, and really we want to focus on ourselves and starting the year right."

Since NAU started the New Year's tradition with Arizona and Oregon State in 2006, the Lumberjacks have never beaten the Wildcats, who enter the week ranked No. 8 in the country by collegeswimming.com. However, the 'Jacks have bested the Beavers twice including last season's dominating 198.5-94.5 victory. NAU previously defeated Oregon State in 2011 and prior to last season, the Lumberjacks fell by just two points to the Pac-12 squad in 2015.

The Lumberjacks are coming off a 172-114 dual meet loss to Arizona State on Dec. 16 in Tempe, which preceded the team's semester-ending training camp in the Valley of the Sun. Senior Urte Kazakeviciute posted the team's lone event win against the Sun Devils, claiming first in the 100 breaststroke.

Friday will mark NAU's second head-to-head competition with Arizona this season following the Wildcats' first ever visit to Flagstaff in NAU's season opener on Oct. 8. While the Lumberjacks dropped the dual, 222-77, several athletes were up to the test in the first meet of the season. Kazakeviciute (200 breast), junior Alina Staffeldt (200 butterfly) and sophomore Tanya Kurach (1-meter diving) all collected overall event wins in the meet which also featured Hawaii.

Although junior Kimmy Richter did not take home any overall event wins, she did place third overall in both the 500 and 1,000 freestyles. On the diving side, in addition to winning 1-meter, Kurach also placed fifth on 3-meter. Sophomore Christina Torrente was NAU's top 3-meter finisher in fourth overall, while also placing fourth on 1-meter – one spot ahead of senior Alexa Geiger.

Arizona owns a 3-2 dual meet record this season, while Oregon State is 2-7. Current NAU assistant coach Larry Liebowitz was formerly the Beavers' head coach for 13 years prior to making the move to Flagstaff.

In last year's head-to-head results versus Oregon State, the Lumberjacks won 13 of 16 events, including five one-two finishes and three one-two-three sweeps.