There is nothing like a rivalry between two teams, especially two close neighbors. The Canisius College men's and women's swimming and diving teams will travel north to renew their rivalry with Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference foe Niagara on Saturday afternoon at the Oxy Aquatic Center.
Last Time Out for Canisius
The Golden Griffin men and women returned to the water after over a month off from competition. Returning to action, the Griffs traveled to Gannon University on Jan. 12 to face the host Knights at the Carneval Athletic Pavilion. In men's action, the Griffs rallied from a 24-point deficit to defeat the Knights, 111-94, while the women fell to the 19th nationally-ranked Knights, 127-78. Diving was not contested in the dual due to facility issues.
In the men's dual, Gannon pushed its lead to 49-25 through the first four races with first-place finishes in each race to start the day. Everything would change during the 400-yard IM, as the Griffs grabbed the momentum with sophomore Sam Hansen's first-place finish (4:18.01). The Griffs continued to battle back until senior Shawn Parkhurst gave his team their first lead of the day, 76-74, capturing first place in the 100-yard backstroke (53.97) with a season-best performance. The Griffs went on to secure first place in each of the next six individual races en route to victory.
On the women's side, the host Knights entered the weekend ranked 19th in the recent College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Division II Swimming and Diving national rankings. The Griffs were faced with quite a challenge from the start with the Knights recording first-place performances in each of the four opening races. Freshman Clare Battaglia snapped the string of top finishes for the Knights with a first-place performance (4:44.88) in her first collegiate race in the 400-yard IM. This season, Battaglia has captured 14 first-place finishes in 19 total races for the Golden Griffins.
The Purple Eagle men and women are looking to bounce back after being swept by Big Four rival University at Buffalo on Jan. 12. The Niagara men fell to the Bulls, 147-80, as the women dropped a 139-96 decision.
In the sweep, Lindsey Jackson, Carl Roycroft, and Shane Baxter each nabbed first-place finishes for the Purple Eagles with Aubrey Kettrick breaking her own school record in the 200-yard freestyle. Despite the outcome, both squads took first place in the 200-yard freestyle relay to end the day.
The Purple Eagles will be fighting for more than just the rivalry after last year's sweep, as 11 seniors will be swimming in their final home dual at the Oxy Aquatic Center on Senior Day.
Previous Meeting Between Niagara and Canisius
In the previous meeting between the Purple Eagles and Golden Griffins, the host Griffs closed out their regular season on Senior Day by sweeping the Purps at the Koessler Athletic Center Pool on Jan. 21. The Canisius men revenged a one-point loss to the Purple Eagles the previous season with a 159-84 victory, while the Golden Griffin women overturned the outcome of past duals by defeating Niagara, 151-92. On the women's side, the win credited head coach Scott Vanderzell with his first dual win over Niagara.
Sophomore Marissa Oakey dominanted the freestyle events in the Griffs' win, as she set a pair of Koessler Athletic Center Pool records with first-place performances in the 200-yard and 500-yard events. Junior Anna Schena would capture top-finishes in both the 1000-freestyle and 200-butterfly. The Golden Griffins also swept both the 400-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relays.
To open the day, the Griff men swept the top two spots in the 400-yard medley relay with first- and second-place finishes. Parkhurst led the Griffs with a pair of wins in both the 1000-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly. Sophomores Sam Hansen and Nick Sereday would each capture two second-place finishes as freshman.
At last year's MAAC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, each Golden Griffin squad nabbed a top-five finish at the conference finale with both Niagara squads placing eighth overall. Both Canisius teams recorded their highest point-totals and best overall-finishes in program history. The Griff men secured a second-place finish with 587.50 points and the women finished fifth with 331.50 points.
The Rivalry Continues
With a rivalry that is almost 100 years old, the battle between Canisius and Niagara has raged on for decades. According to historical records, the two schools first met on the basketball court in 1904.
Given the rich history of such a rivalry, the respective schools established an all-sports competition in an effort to enhance the competition between the two schools with the victor taking possession of the Canal Cup. Thus, the Battle of the Bridge was born. Points are awarded to the winner of regular-season contests, except for cross country, golf, and swimming and diving, which will be determined based on the teams' overall finish at each MAAC Championship.
Although no points will be up for grab on Saturday afternoon, the Battle of the Bridge and rivalry between the two schools will be strong leading to the showdown at the MAAC Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 14-16 at the Burt Flickinger Center in Buffalo, N.Y.