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by Frank Scicchitano

The men’s swimming and diving team traveled to Rhode Island last Saturday to open their Big East schedule against Providence. The Wildcats picked up an impressive victory, defeating the Friars 158-71.

Villanova dominated the majority of the swimming events, boasting a first-place finisher in every race but the 400-meter freestyle relay.

The Wildcats had the top three finishers in four different events. Senior Scott Thiede, junior Ben Smith and sophomore Jason Moyer led the way with two victories each.

Smith picked up wins in the 200-meter individual medley (2:12.85) and the 200-meter butterfly (2:17.30). The Sudbury, Mass., native was also a member of the winning 400-meter medley relay team (4:02.75).

Moyer’s two victories came in the freestyle sprint events. The sophomore won both the 50-meter freestyle (24.45) and the 100-meter freestyle (53.88). He and Smith combined to score 36 points for Villanova.

The other individual freestyle events were also won by Wildcats. Thiede took the 200-meter (1:56.19) and the 400-meter (4:12.25) while fellow senior Russell Paulson was victorious in the 800-meter race (8:48.89).

In the 200-meter breaststroke, Ryan Murtha edged Providence’s Andrew St. Pierre for a victory. The freshman from La Salle College High School in Philadelphia completed the race in 2:38.94, just in front of St. Pierre who finished in 2:39.03.

This was a crucial victory for Villanova as two other Friars followed St. Pierre across the finish line. Murtha’s victory allowed the Wildcats to keep a comfortable lead going into the afternoon’s last event, the 400-meter freestyle. Providence won this event, but the meet was all but over with the Wildcats coming out on top.

Villanova’s Robert Patten and Zach Romanovsky were the team’s top divers. However, neither could knock off Providence’s Ben Kardian, who won both 1-meter diving events. Patten, a sophomore, scored a 229.57 in the first event and finished in second ahead of his teammate.

In the second event, the two Wildcat divers traded places as Romanovsky finished with a score of 214.95. The Friars’ Kardian qualified for the NCAA Zone A Diving Championships with a 304.00 score in the first event.

Both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams will be back in action this weekend as they host the Pittsburgh Panthers in Big East competition.

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