On the 4th and the 5th of September, four ISL teams met in the Third Season’s 4th match: American Cali Condors (CAC), last year’s champions and favourites of this season, their fellow countrymen from LA Current (LAC) and DC Trident (DCT), as well as Italian Aqua Centurions (AQC).

The match was an exciting struggle that demonstrated a most intriguing battle for 1-2 and 3-4 places.

The final positions of the clubs were as follows:

CAC – 594 (4 club points)
LAC – 444.5 (3)
AQC – 375.5 (2)
DCT – 359 (1)

This was the second head-to-head meeting between the league’s top American clubs: Cali Condors and LA Current. Only this time, “Current” was able to put up a serious fight against last year’s champions. As we can see, the final gap is not as dramatic as in their first meeting (707 and 402.5 points, respectively).

CAC’s main striking force was once again their multi-olympic champion Caeleb DRESSEL. He renewed his own ISL record for most MVP (Most Valuable Player) points scored in a single match, which he set in match 2. The record now stands at a fantastic 112.5 points.

The unstoppable Caeleb won the following distances for the Condors:

100m butterfly (jackpot of 15 points);

50m freestyle (jackpot of 15 points);

100m freestyle (jackpot of 12 points);

100m individual medley (jackpot of 19 points);

50m butterfly (jackpot of 15 points)

Moreover, he made a significant contribution to the Condors’ team victory in the 4x100m medley relay. Also, it can hardly be called a failure that in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay DRESSEL, starting 4th in the last leg, pulled in only the 2nd place for the Condors after the Centurions. Caeleb DRESSEL continued his athletic exploits in the skin races, which will be mentioned later on.

At the start of the match DRESSEL’s momentum was supported by Kelsi DAHLIA in the women’s 100m butterfly (jackpot of 12 points) and Beata NELSON in the women’s 200m backstroke (jackpot of 19). In the women’s 200m breaststroke the Condors took the 1st and the 2nd places with Lilly KING (jackpot 12 points) and Emily ESCOBEDO. Nic FINK won the same distance for the men, but with a minor jackpot.

LAC had only won the women’s 4x100m relay by this point, and after the 8th race the gap between the leaders was at 59 points:

CAC – 138
LAC – 79
DCT – 59
AQC – 50

But at this exact moment happened the first “plot twist” of the match.

Thanks to the efforts of Abbey WETZEIL and Madison WILSON, who took a “double” in the women’s 50m freestyle and scored 22 points (including a jackpot of 15), LA came in closer to the Condors, who scored no points in the swim.

Later on, in the women’s 200m individual medley Anastasia GORBENKO won with a 15-point jackpot. Her teammate Sara FRANCESCHI brought LAC 6 more points for her 3rd place; while CAC was again left without any points.

The gap was narrowed down to 8 points. During the next few races the gap widened slightly, until LAC’s Martin MALYUTIN (13.5 points) and Fernando SCHEFFER (13 points) got 1-2 in the men’s 400m freestyle. Remarkably, at the 100 meter mark MALYUTIN was at the 5th place, the last one for which extra points are given, while SCHEFFER was second. The leader of the race after 100m Khader BAQLAH of “Condors” took the 7th place and didn’t get any points as well as his club in total on the distance.

Three “zero-point” distances showed obvious Cali Condors’ weaknesses in the Third season.  As a result, Current took the lead with 218 points against Condors’ 204 points. 

An important feature of the match was that the fallen out of the leadership Centurions and DC were by no means extras in this fight.

On the first day AQC, besides winning the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, had Nicolo MARTINENGHI who took the men’s 50m breaststroke (with a minimum jackpot).

DCT had victories by Jacob PEBLEY in the 200m backstroke (with jackpot of 12 points), Andreas VAZAIOS in the men’s 200m IM (with a minimum jackpot) and the “double” of Ali DELOOF (no jackpot) and Linnea MACK in the women’s 50m backstroke. 

In addition, Leah NEALE and Madison WILSON shared the 1st place at the finish line (although NEALE received 2 points less, as she was 2nd at the 100m mark while WILSON was 1st).

Retrospectively, it seems obvious that the two 4x100m mixed relays that were held on the first day and which determined the style of the skin races, made a decisive difference in the course of the match.

The women’s 4x100m medley relay was won by four Сondors (Olivia SMOLIGA, Lilli KING, Kelsi DAHLIA and Erika BROWN), while the second Cali Condors’ relay team took the 3rd place. Current finished only 4th and 7th. During the men’s relay, the Condors (Coleman STEWART, Nic FINK, Caeleb DRESSEL and Justin RESS) once again won by nearly 4 seconds and with a 30-point jackpot. The LAC team was only at the 4th place while the second CAC and LAC teams did not get any points.

As a result, the teams finished the first day of the 4th match with the below results:

CAC – 266
LAC – 242
AQC – 210
DCT – 191 

DC Trident still had chances for the 3rd place, Aqua Centurions for the 2nd and LA Current for the 1st. And, although the clubs ended up in the same order at the finish line, team leaders showed their best fighting qualities.

After the first race of Day 2, the women’s 100m freestyle, LAC came within 10 points of CAC, thanks to another “double” from Abbey WETZEIL (12 jackpot points) and Madison WILSON. In the meantime, Condors received only 5 points for the 4th place.

However, paraphrasing the famous line about the “Maxim gun”: the Condors had Caeleb DRESSEL and the Current did not.” And, unfortunately for LAC, this major “handicap” could not be compensated even by their most spectacular swims such as Tom SHIELDS in the men’s 200m butterfly (jackpot of 12 points) and Ingrid WILM in women’s 100m backstroke (jackpot of 15 points).

Coleman STEWART (jackpot of 12 points) and Justin RESS had the most important 1-2 finish in the men’s 100m backstroke. Right when the LAC has narrowed the gap down to 7 points, their swimmers took 7th and 8th position bringing the team only 3 points.

There was no question about the winner after Lilli KING won the 100m breaststroke (jackpot 12 points) and Molly HANNIS added 6 more points for the 3rd place. Current didn’t score any points in the race and the gap reached 55 points.

After that, LA Current’s victories in the women’s 200m freestyle (Madison WILSON, minimum jackpot); a “double” in the men’s 200m freestyle by Martin MALUTIN (no jackpot) and Fernando SCHEFFER; and a victory in the 4x100m mixed relay could no longer make a difference. However, it did demonstrate great fighting potential of the team.

After the 6th swim of the second day and right until the end of the match, DC and Aqua went neck to neck in the battle for the 3rd place. The Centurions were, however, luckier in the last part of the match as Nicolo MARTINENGHI won the 100m breaststroke (no jackpot) and Holly Barratt won women’s 50m butterfly.

In the last two swims DCT and AQC “traded blows”. First, in the women’s 400m IM Bailey ANDISON won brilliantly, bringing the Tridents 26 points (including 4 points for the 2nd place after the 200m mark and a jackpot of 22 points). The Centurions scored no points in the race, so DC were 9.5 points ahead of Aqua. But then, in the last race, Ilia BORODIN and Chase KALISH from the Centurions finished 1-2 and scored 24 total points for their team, while the Tridents got only 7 points in the same race.

As a result, by the time of the skin races, the intrigue of who would win the match had all but disappeared, meanwhile the situation with the 3-4 places looked uncertain:

CAC – 472.5
LAC – 423
AQC – 357.5
DCT – 350

Besides a solid points reserve, the Condors had a major bonus in the skins: their leaders’ signature styles were the ones chosen for the skin races: Kelsi DAHLIA (butterfly) and Caeleb DRESSEL (freestyle). And their excellence in these disciplines was fully confirmed.

At first, Kelsi DAHLIA ‘modestly’ entered the skins semi-finals with the 2nd place, letting Beryl GASTALDELLO from LAC skip ahead. But then, she spectacularly won the semis with a full jackpot leaving no points for her rivals, as well as took the final round of the race (also with a jackpot). Her opponent in the finals, Linnea MACK received points for the quarterfinals only and reduced the gap with the Centurions by only 1 point.

In the men’s skins race, DCT took the last two places in the quarterfinals, leaving the 3rd place of the 4th ISL match to the Centurions. In the final of the men’s skins Caeleb DRESSEL faced his club-mate Justin RESS, whom he confidently “jackpotted”.

After 4 matches the positions of the clubs are as follows:

ENS and CAC – 8 club points after 2 matches

LAC – 6 (2) 
AQC – 4 (2)
LON and TOR – 3 (1)
TOR and IRO – 2 (1)
DCT and NYB 2 (2)

ABOUT THE ISL: The International Swimming League is the first global professional swimming team-based competition. Founded in 2018, the league currently consists of 10 teams based in North America (Cali Condors, DC Trident, LA Current, NY Breakers and Toronto Titans), Europe (Italy-based Aqua Centurions, Energy Standard, Hungary-based Iron, and the UK-based London Roar) and Asia (Tokyo Frog Kings).

ISL Season 3 will take place in three phases, with Naples, Italy, first playing host to the 10 ISL clubs in a five-week regular season from 26 August to 30 September. This will be followed by a Play-off phase of three weeks in November, which will bring together the top eight ISL Clubs to compete for a spot in the ISL Final. The ISL Grand Final is set to take place at the end of December or early January 2022, when the ISL Champions will be crowned.

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