Tigers Looking For Another NCAA Title

Athens, Ga.--The NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships begins Thursday with Auburn looking for its fourth national championship in five years.

The toughest hurdle in the way for the Tigers will likely be the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs, who defeated Auburn by just 19 points for the SEC Championship in Knoxville in mid-February.

"In order for us to have a chance to beat the heavily-favored Georgia team, we're going to have to have Tawnie Bethune, a junior from Huntsville, and Julie Stupp, who had a great conference meet, Lauren Duerk, our senior IMer (individual medley) and Alicia Jensen, a freshman breaststroker step up," says swimming coach David Marsh. "They're probably going to have to perform very well in order for us to have a chance."

Auburn's Julie Stupp competes at the SEC Championships.

In a competition where it's often more important to have balance across the board than a few individual stars, Marsh says the strength of his team at the championships is its diversity.

"We're kind of all over the place as far as events," the Auburn coach notes. "Maybe the No. 1 strength is in the backstroke and the individual medleys. In the backstroke we're led by Jeri Moss, who was on the world championship team and a silver medalist on the relay this past summer. Rachel Goh, a mid-semester addition from Melbourne, Australia, has been a real good spark for our program as well. Margo McCulley, a freshman out of Memphis, has had an excellent freshman year.

"On the distance side (we have) probably two of the best distance swimmers in Hayley Peirsol and Adrienne Bender," Marsh adds. "We're looking for big things out of them."

Going into the meet, the Tigers are ranked second behind Georgia. Cal is ranked third followed by Stanford and Florida is number five.

Marsh says his swimmers need to have a strong day on Thursday at the three-day competiton to build confidence heading into the next two days. As far as getting points, Marsh notes, Friday looks to be the most important.

"I think the middle day will be our key day because we'll have the 400 IM and the 100 backstroke," Marsh says. "If we are able to advance a lot of people and they end up in the finals versus the consolations, that would certainly be a lot better.

"We have a pretty good team if it comes down to the last day," he adds. "We have a fairly strong morning in the last session because our breaststrokers aren't as good in the 100s, but on Saturday when the 200s come in we're quite a bit stronger, and even in the 200 butterfly."

The Tigers won the national championship at Texas in 2002, in Auburn in 2003 and at Texas A&M in 2004. Georgia won it all last year at Purdue, finishing 117.5 points ahead of the Tigers, who took second place.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories