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Jan. 19, 2012

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina swimming and diving teams are set to compete in one of their most challenging meets of the season on Friday as they travel to Georgia for a SEC matchup. The meet is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at Gabrielsen Natatorium.

The Lady Bulldogs have won 76 straight home meets and enter Friday ranked No. 1 in the nation at 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the conference. On the men’s side, the Bulldogs are ranked ninth with a record of 3-2-1 and 0-1-1 in the SEC. South Carolina head coach McGee Moody said it will take a special effort for his teams to come away with a pair of wins on Friday.

“It will be our toughest meet,” Moody said. “It’s hard enough to swim against those teams at home, but when you have to travel to them and do it in a day, it produces some really big challenges. Their women are some to the toughest competitors and best athletes that I’ve seen. Every year they are one of the top three teams in the country. Their men continue to improve each year. They are going to be even better next year. They have an outstanding recruiting class coming in next year. We have our work cut out for us. When we go into this kind of environment, we’ve got to be at our best.”

If last week was any indication, Moody won’t have to worry about his teams bringing their best on Friday. The Gamecocks are coming off their most impressive performance of the season as they swept Duke and Queens University of Charlotte last Saturday at the Blatt P.E. Center/Carolina Natatorium. Carolina recorded 20 first-place finishes in 32 events, including two wins apiece from divers Courtney Forcucci and Rylan Ridenour and swimmers Gerard Rodriguez, Matt Navata and Rachael Schaffer.

“We posted our fastest meet of the year, which is odd coming off the hard training we were doing,” Moody said. “We had a lot of really good swims. As far as a total team effort goes, it put us in a good place. They are pretty confident right now and are going to have to be heading into this weekend.”

On the season, the South Carolina women are 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the SEC and are one win away from a second straight winning season, which would be the program’s second since 2002. The Gamecocks are 4-24 all-time against Georgia. In last year’s meeting, the Lady Bulldogs defeated Carolina 178.5-119.5. Forcucci swept the diving events, Amanda Rutqvist claimed both the 100 and 200 breaststroke and Schaffer won the 400 IM for the Gamecocks.

The Lady Bulldogs return a wealth of talent from last year’s squad that won the SEC title and finished second at the NCAA Championships, including national champions Wendy Trott, Megan Romano, Shannon Vreeland and Melanie Margalis. Trott owns the nation’s best times in the 1,000 (9:38.88) and 1,650 (15:44.10) freestyles, while teammate Amber McDermott has the top time in the 500 freestyle (4:34.55). Georgia is coming off its first loss in 19 dual meets as it fell at No. 4 Texas on Jan. 7.

The Carolina men are 4-3 overall and 0-2 in the conference. The Gamecocks are 16-27 all-time against the Bulldogs after dropping a 180.5-117.5 decision in last year’s meeting. Ridenour placed first on the three-meter springboard, Max Heinze won the 100 backstroke and Bobby Cave finished first in the 100 breaststroke to lead Carolina in the loss.

The Bulldogs, who finished fourth in the SEC last year and placed 10th at the NCAA Championships, suffered a 160-125 defeat at No. 2 Texas on Jan. 7 to open their 2012 schedule. All-Americans Martin Grodzki, Andrew Gemmell, Jameson Hill, Peter Benner and Will Freeman lead they way for Georgia. Grodzki boasts the nation’s top time in the 1,650 freestyle (14:49.33).

Live results for Friday’s meet will be available at