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Monday November 29th

UNC captures first-place in both men's and women's swimming and diving season openers

Sophomore, Lilly Higgs competes in the Women's 200 Yard Breastroke event against Georgia on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019
Buy Photos Sophomore, Lilly Higgs competes in the Women's 200 Yard Breastroke event against Georgia on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019

The North Carolina men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams defeated Queens University during their season opener in Charlotte Friday night. 

What happened?

The women’s team won in dominant fashion by a score of 158-96, while the men’s team came out on top with a slightly smaller margin of victory for a score of 141-121. 

UNC showed its strengths across the board with at least one Tar Heel finishing in the top three places for all but one event. 

Who stood out? 

Senior Grace Countie led the women’s team to victory during the meet, earning three first place finishes. Countie finished first in the women’s 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard free. She also led her relay team to win the women’s 200-yard medley relay. 

Senior Lily Higgs was also part of the team that won the 200 women’s medley relay. Higgs had a strong night individually as well,  finishing first in the 200-yard breaststroke and second in the 100-yard breaststroke. 

First-year Greer Pattison began her college swimming career in style as she won two podium finishes of her own. She was a part of the 200 medley relay team that finished second, and she later proved her personal skills by finishing second to Countie in the 100-yard backstroke and second in the 200-yard backstroke.

On the men’s side, Valdas Abaliksta, a graduate student from Lithuania, won three first place finishes. He won the 200-yard breaststroke, 100-yard breaststroke, and led his team to a first place finish in the men’s 200 yard medley relay. 

Other Tar Heels scoring for the team included sophomore Boyd Poelke, who swam with Abaliksta on the winning 200-yard medley relay team. He also finished first in the 100 yard fly and second in the 50 free. 

Tomas Sungalia, a senior and another member of that winning 200-yard medley team began his season on a high note. Although Queens took first, third, and fourth places in the 100-yard free, Sungalia stayed focused and finished second – the highest finish for UNC in that event. 

When was it decided?

The women’s team started off strong, in event number one, the 200 medley relay, North Carolina took two out of the three podium spots finishing first and second. The men’s team also began the night with a first and third place finish in the 200 medley relay. 

Both teams held their own and showcased their talents through the beginning of the meet. Queens did not record a first place finish until the 14th event when they won the men’s 50 yard freestyle. Queens began to gain some momentum after that, especially on the men’s side, but ultimately the meet was decided by North Carolina’s dominant performances right off the bat. 

Why does it matter?

This opening meet was crucial in setting the tone for the season ahead. The teams have a packed schedule over the next few months with meets against NC State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Duke and Virgina among others. All these meets will lead up to the ACC Championships held in Atlanta, Georgia in mid-February. 

The team was able to dip its toes in the water Friday in Charlotte, but the success of the season will be determined in the long haul with important meets over the next months. Establishing good habits early on and building well balanced relay teams will be imperative in continuing to win podium finishes as the season progresses. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will take on NC State on Wednesday, October 13th at 6 pm for their home opener held at Koury Natatorium. 

@DTHSports |

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