By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
VINELAND — Vineland’s 90-80 win over visiting Mainland Regional in girls swimming on Friday afternoon may come with an asterisk because the Mustangs were missing nearly 10 swimmers from their lineup, but any win over one of the best programs in South Jersey is something to hang your hat on.
The Fighting Clan won four individual events and a pair of relays, and the victory puts them into a first-place tie with Our Lady of Mercy Academy. Both teams are 3-0 in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference, with Vineland improving to 7-1 overall with the win over Mainland while OLMA sits at 5-1. Vineland finishes up its dual-meet schedule on Tuesday by hosting OLMA at 6 p.m.
“We all went into Senior Night a little nervous, but excited. It’s nice to have a win on Senior Night,” said Vineland senior Kendyl Rivers. “Mainland is probably the strongest team in our conference. A lot of their girls weren’t here, but we still raced as if it was going to be a close race, and it was. They elevate the challenge because we knew we were up against a good group of girls, but we don’t really waver, we know we have to work together to achieve that end goal.”
“Mainland has always been a really big name in swimming. I think it’s great for us to swim really great teams like this,” said fellow senior Angie Mainiero. “It pushes us to swim faster and it creates a really fun, competitive environment. You don’t always get that in every meet, but this was really fun. Everybody was cheering for each other and that really elevates the whole experience.”
Ava Luciano led the way for Vineland (7-1, 3-0 CAL National) with a pair of wins, in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, and she was also part of the winning 200 medley relay team along with Ava Levari, Ava Smith and Isabela Saltar. Lena Luciano won the 200 free and Saltar took home first place in the 100 breast stroke.
Mainland (7-1, 2-1 CAL National) got wins from Alivia Wainwright in the 100 backstroke and 100 fly, and Jordyn Ricciotti scored wins in the 200 IM and 500 free. The meet was hotly contested in the second- and third-place finishes, and that’s where Vineland’s depth proved to be the difference. Vineland scored five second-place finishes in individual events and finished second in a pair of relays as well.
“You’re always in a race with someone (in a meet like this). Across all lanes, there is someone who is going to be pushing you to go fast,” Mainiero said. “I was in a race myself and that really pushes you to go faster when you see somebody right next to you. Especially with a team like (Mainland) that has depth. We’re a bigger team and we have depth in numbers as well, so everyone was going to be able to find somebody to race, and a meet like this is great in that aspect.”
Rivers said a win like Friday’s could go a long way to giving some of the younger athletes on Vineland’s roster a shot of confidence.
“I think this win for the younger girls is very important because the information we had on Mainland motivated them to do their best in practice. We want them to work toward becoming better swimmers in the future and this meet means a lot to them,” she said.
Mainero said the Fighting Clan’s attention now turns to postseason swimming. The team has a few weeks to get geared up for the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.
“I think we’re good in terms of getting our competition up. We just have to sharpen some things up and get ourselves rested and ready for the state playoffs,” she said. “We have individual things we have to clean up and now we’ll have the time to work on those things before we hit the playoffs.”
Mainland 117, Vineland 52 (Boys): On the boys side, Mainland rolled to a big victory over the Fighting Clan, improving to 9-1 on the season. Mason Bushay scored a win in the 200 free and also was a part of the winning 200 medley relay, 200 free relay and 400 free relay teams, and Zach Vasser took home first place in the 100 backstroke. Carson Vasser was part of the winning 200 medley relay team and also scored a win in the 200 and 400 free relays.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays