Cavalier Corner

April 2021

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12 CAVALIER CORNER BY KRISTIN THURMAN A fter earning its first No. 1 rank- ing of the season just before the 2021 NCAA Women's Swim- ming and Diving Champion- ships March 17-20, Virginia was the clear favorite to win the program's first-ever national title. But to accomplish that, the Cavaliers knew getting off to a fast start at the national championship meet in Greensboro, N.C., was mission critical. Heading into the meet, head coach Todd DeSorbo made sure to set the same goal for the team as he always does — just to im- prove on what they have done before. "Just like ACCs, we just wanted to be better than we have ever been, better than Virginia has ever been," DeSorbo said. "The best UVA had ever finished at NCAAs is fifth. We had never won a relay at NCAAs. We look back two years ago, the last time we were there, our top finish in a relay was eighth place. "We just talked about trying to out-do what we did two years ago and overall be- ing better as a team. And if that wins us a national title, it wins us a national title." One of the goals the squad discussed was doubling its team points total from two years ago, when it finished with 188, and how quickly they could reach that mark. The first night of the NCAA Champion- ships was the opportunity for a huge start. UVA entered with the top time in the country for the 800-yard freestyle relay, the only event on the schedule the opening day of the event. Mission critical became accomplished. The Cavaliers — fourth-year Kyla Valls led off the relay, followed by classmate Paige Madden, second-year Ella Nelson and first-year Alex Walsh — cruised to a winning time of 6:52.56, finishing five sec- onds ahead of second-place Kentucky and bettering the UVA school record by two sec- onds. It was the first NCAA title in a relay in program history. The Cavaliers earned 40 points and a lead in the team points stand- ings they would never relinquish. "It is so exciting," Valls said. "We were ready last year [when the NCAA Champion- ships were canceled due to the pandemic], and it was obviously a big heartbreak to not be able to do that. We just wanted to come into this meet with the same type of energy and passion. "We just wanted to get the ball rolling for this meet, and I think we did that. We are super happy to win, and I think we are all really proud of ourselves." The second day of competition brought some of the best events for the Cavaliers, who had the top qualifiers in each of the three individual races. Virginia started the night with a second- place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay. The Cavaliers clocked in with a time of 1:25.97, behind Cal's 1:25.78. Second-year Kate Douglass led off the relay with a 21.09 split, the fifth-fastest time in history for the 50-yard free. Second-year Lexi Cuomo, Valls and Walsh rounded out the relay team as they set a UVA school record in the event. The individual events began with the 500- yard freestyle. Madden, who cruised to the top seed in prelims, won the NCAA title with a time of 4:33.61, two seconds ahead of second place. "It felt great, I have been working on it for the past two years since I finished second [in 2019]," Madden said. "I just wanted to do it for my team, get the points and get my hand on the wall first. After we got second in the relay, I just wanted to hype us up a little bit more and get those points back." Walsh kept the winning going with an NCAA title in the 200-yard individual med- ley. She finished two seconds ahead of the field with a time of 1:51.87 to win her first individual national championship. UVA completed the sweep with Douglass out-touching the field in the 50-yard free- style. She followed her 50-split time from the relay with a 21.13 to win the NCAA title in the event. Douglass is the third-fastest swim- mer ever in the event and improved her own UVA record with the 21.09 leadoff swim. With the first two nights done, Virginia's 184 points were just four shy of its total from 2019. After a disqualification for Cali- fornia in the 400-yard medley relay, it was Virginia's meet to lose. 'BETTER THAN BEFORE' A Simple Philosophy Helps UVA Win Its First NCAA Swimming And Diving Title UVA'S 28 NCAA TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS Baseball — 2015 Men's Basketball — 2019 Boxing — 1938 Women's Cross Country — 1981, 1982 Men's Lacrosse — 1972, 1999, 2003, 2006, 2011, 2019 Women's Lacrosse — 1991, 1993, 2004 Women's Rowing — 2010, 2012 Men's Soccer — 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2009, 2014 Women's Swimming & Diving — 2021 Men's Tennis — 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017

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