After handing Virginia its first home loss in six years, the Tennessee men's swimming and diving team will look to remain perfect this season as they travel to the 20th annual Dallas Morning News Classic.
The AquaVols (9-0) face a stellar field against the likes of No.3 Auburn, No. 7 Florida, Texas A&M, California and host Southern Methodist University. Four teams which placed in the top 10 of the 2001 NCAA Championships will be competing this weekend--all six teams participating placed in the top 12.
The Tennessee squad will not only be looking for its 10th consecutive win, it will also seek to defend its title from the 2001 Dallas Morning News Classic. Last year, the AquaVols edged out host SMU and whipped Minnesota, Florida, Nebraska and Auburn.
The 2002 Classic will take place today and Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Perkins Natatorium on the campus of SMU. Tennessee coach John Trembley spoke highly of the venue and the aquatic center and said he would love to mirror the event when Tennessee gets its new aquatic center.
"It's the most unique event or venue that I've even seen," Trembley said.
What makes it so unique is that SMU's Perkins Natatorium used to be the school's basketball gymnasium. Shaped like a cereal bowl, the Perkins Natatorium seats encircle the water and the low ceiling can produce volume levels with high decibels. The setting should also give fans a preview of the upcoming NCAA Championships in late March. It won't be a friendly environment, either. Since the arena is so small, the fans and teams will be right on top of each other. Considering Tennessee will be facing two other top 10 opponents, there will be no love shown amongst the teams.
"It's like going into a hornets' nest," Trembley said.
The hornet (or team) stinging the most this year has to be Auburn. The Tigers (4-0) just came off a dominant win against defending national champion Texas, 145-98.
"Auburn is hands down the team to beat this year," Trembley said. "They are heads and tails above Texas."
However, Auburn is not the only team that brings talent to the pool. Florida is now ranked seventh and California brings Anthony Ervin, Olympic gold-medal winner in the 50m freestyle. Not only does Ervin hold the gold, he holds numerous American records and titles as well. Texas A&M placed in last year's tournament top 12, and Trembley said that SMU always swims better at home.
Each team will battle with a nine-man squad (eight swimmers and one diver) each day and compete in only the fastest of competitions--no long distances and no preliminary heats.
"We will get a chance to swim and dive against great competition in an electrifying environment," Trembley said.