Week 4 brings a few interesting matchups that the Ninjas have their eyes on. While some teams are hoping to continue their winning ways to better position themselves to take at least a piece of their divisional championship, others are hoping to score their first win of the season and avoid dropping out of their respective division. Regardless of their total wins and losses, we have two great head to head competitions with a lot at stake. These four teams exemplify the fact that in the NVSL, nothing is over until it’s over, and going out and competing hard any given Saturday makes all the difference in the long run!
*Predictions are based on available data*
This Division 4 matchup between the Fair Oaks (FO) Sharks and the Oakton (OAK) Otters is absolutely critical in determining the eventual divisional champions. Fair Oaks has scrapped their way to a 3-0 record, winning their first three meets by 20 points, 28, and 28 points respectively. By winning two or three close races in these meets the Sharks put themselves on the positive side of the meet plus-minus–in order to win against Oakton, they will need to do this again. Oakton comes into this meet fresh off the warpath, having squeaked out a narrow 4 point victory on Wednesday at their Divisional Relay Carnival. Having lost to VAC in week 1, Oakton has unquestionably gotten better week after week, seen most notably in overcoming the Gators in that close divisional relay meet.
The oddsmakers (us) would have to list Oakton as the 3/2 favorite going into this meet despite having to go on the road to Fair Oaks to duke it out–Oakton has a few unmistakable mismatches, primarily in the 8-under age group, that will deliver not only a bunch of points but also critical shifts in momentum to the visitor sideline. Fair Oaks has the ability to pick up a bunch of points at once spread out through the meet, which can be back-breaking when your team is feeling invulnerable and suddenly see the meet swing closer by 8 or 9 points. However, the ace in the hole for Oakton will be their relays–Oakton is the superior relay squad with the ability to safely win 6 relays and possibly 2 more–that means that if the Otters are winning after fly, they almost certainly will win this meet. But before you write off Fair Oaks, remember, as we pointed out, that this group is absolutely resilient and has been battle tested week in and week out to get to this point. The Sharks will need to swim their best meet of the season, and with just a few swimmers hitting the wall a little harder, this meet could quickly turn in their favor. With that said, let’s break down the most critical races of the day for each team.
Fair Oaks’ Key Races
- 8-Under Girls Free: Jessica Joung should be with the Otters Laura Roth and Abigail Limkin to the wall–flipping this seeded 3rd place swim into 2nd or even 1st gets FO on much better footing to start the meet.
- 11-12 Boys Free: Similar to the race above, Isaac Rodriguez can do a ton for his team early if he can overcome the .15s difference between him and OAK Jon Anthony Montel and Beau Souders–these three will go to the wall together for a photo finish!
- 13-14 Girls Free: Rachel Kim in lane 5 needs to hold off Cate Yurko from the other side of the pool to deliver an ever important 1 point to the Sharks to keep the home team from slipping early
- 15-18 Girls Free: FO should get the bulk of the points in this one from Alexus Chua and Lindsey Mcnulty if they can keep Lindsey Liddell (OAK) from sneaking into the mix–watch Maya Sardar in lane 1 try to steal that last point and end freestyle on a sweep!
- 8-Under Boys Back: Every point FO can take away from this age group will pay enormous dividends in the long run–6 y/o Henry Edwards and Cooper Jones need to spin those arms and try to take 2nd place away from Connor Timm.
- 8-Under Girls Back: See above situation, and insert 7 y/o, Sophia Edwards, trying to take the final tenth off her race to take 3rd from Daniella Rubano from Oakton.
- 13-14 Boys Back: Saturday would be a great day for Ryan Seo to break the 32s barrier and take 1st away from James Piccolo–this 4 point swing could put the Sharks within striking range to steal the lead
- 15-18 Boys Back: Justin Brady needs to make sure he wins this race because he will get chased by Mitchell Thomas from Oakton, but Sam Walters and Chris Bunn will add some support outside and might be able to move up–also the Sharks can’t lose sight of Nick Highman hiding out in lane 6–while we have not seen his backstroke yet this summer, it has to be assumed that the Otters believe he can play spoiler if they are throwing him in here!
- 8-Under Boys Breast: Terrence Lee and Ben Hansen are both seeded at 27.43–a first place here would go a very long way in an event that will go back and forth between the two teams
- 8-Under Girls Breast: Oakton might sweep this but Fernanda Lewis will try to keep Anna Roth from getting those last points
- 9-10 Girls Breast: Scarlett Killian will definitely score, but with a big swim she could take 2nd or even 3rd
- 13-14 Girls Breast: Giana Kang needs to reach for the wall hard–it might lead to flipping 2 points for a 2nd place
- 9-10 Boys Fly: Jayden Nam and Mark Edwards need to take the majority of the points and possibly go 1-2 over James Hayden (OAK)
- 11-12 Boys Medley Relay: 2 tenths separate these two relay teams–look for Preseason All Swim Ninja Connor Tain to be a difference maker in the breaststroke leg
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These 14 races are more than enough opportunities for Fair Oaks to swing 10 points and some–if they get momentum early on, they could take a strong hold on this meet, but realistically they will only get a few, so who is going to step up for the Sharks?
Oakton’s Key Races
- 15-18 Girls Free: As previously mentioned, Lindsey Lidell can send an early message to the home team by keeping her 3rd or even snatching 2nd place away from the Sharks
- 9-10 Girls Back: Avery Miller should be safe for 3rd place, and Isabel Seigne should look to win a close race over Faith Sun to take the majority of the points here for the Otters
- 15-18 Boys Back: Mitchell Thomas, Ryan Doe, and Nick Highman should have some fierce competition around them, but don’t be surprised if Oakton has a decisive win and a few additional points here–with the big boys it will come down to who is better prepared to race here!
- 8-Under Boys Breast: This might be the closest race of the morning, so who wants it more? Can Ben Hansen start the second half of the meet off with 5 points plus 1 from Malcom McLenahan?
- 9-10 Boys Fly: James Hayden has a great opportunity to upset Jayden Nam–he will need to be careful of getting caught by Mark Edwards to his left
- 9-10 Girls Fly: Though FO should go 1-2 here, Fi Hoehne and Avery Miller need to lock Rebecca McCarthy out of scoring that last point and shut down any plans the Sharks may have of making this meet closer
- 13-14 Boys Fly: James Piccolo will go head to head with Ryan Seo twice–if he can take the win here that would be backbreaking for FO–if he can take 2nd over Matthew Bowman that will also hurt
- 15-18 Boys Fly: Short of a DQ, 1st place is out of the question here, but Matt Sargent and Eric Koplaski will have a great challenge by Kevin Bourdelais and Diego Galvez from FO–4 points would be great to have going into relays
The key for Oakton is winning the races they should win and not letting Fair Oaks into this meet–that is easier said than done, so the Otters should all be looking to improve further on the progress they have already made in the water this season with big swims across the board.
This one is too close to call because Fair Oaks has so many opportunities to make up about 25 points (the rough projected difference between teams based on seeds). The biggest problem for FO will be Relays, which makes it nearly impossible to pick them to win here. If they can get over 190 by the end of individual events they should do it, but that would be outswimming their seeds by 20 points–nearly every one of those close races will have to go their way. Expect Fair Oaks to keep it close, but Oakton looks to improve to 3-1 and position themselves for at least a share of the D4 title
Final Prediction: Oakton 223 – Fair Oaks 197
Good luck to all the swimmers on both teams and make sure to have fun with this one–it is not often that two very well matched teams get to compete against each other in such a meaningful meet with everything to gain and nothing to lose!