PHOENIX, Arizona, October 7. THE 2013-2014 college dual meet season is underway in the United States, and the College Swimming Coaches Association of America is preparing to gather its members for the weekly coaches’ poll that ranks the top 25 women’s and men’s teams in the country. The poll is not designed to predict the winner of the NCAA championships, but merely as a way to show which teams are performing the best each week in head-to-head competition.
Though a couple of weeks of competition is already in the books this season, Swimming World is offering a preview of the college season, using the final CSCAA rankings from last season as a platform. We start with a look at women’s swimming.
1. Southern California Trojans
Dave Salo’s women’s team were consistently strong throughout the 2012-2013 season, placing at or near the top of the CSCAA poll each week. The Trojans placed seventh at the NCAAs, and will likely move up the rankings at the end of the year with the addition of freshman Chelsea Chenault to the roster. The first meet for the Trojans is the SMU Classic on October 18, along with a dual meet with Washington State the same day.
2. California Golden Bears
UC-Berkeley’s women’s team has been buzzed about for nearly a year since Olympic champion Missy Franklin made the call to join the Golden Bears, and now that Franklin has three meets under her belt wearing the Cal cap, the team could contend for top honors in not only the weekly poll but the Pac-12 and NCAA championships.
Franklin, as well as fellow world championship team members Elizabeth Pelton and Rachel Bootsma, are just a few of the stars who will be on hand to guide Cal through the season. So far, the Bears have defeated conference foes Oregon State and Washington State, and opened the season against Cal Poly with the Queen of the Pool Pentathlon, won by freshman Celina Li.
3. Auburn Tigers
Auburn’s undefeated dual-meet season kept them high on the CSCAA poll last season, and so far the women are on pace to replicate that feat. The Tigers traveled to Vanderbilt for the first dual meet of the season, winning all 12 events in a blowout. Next up for Brett Hawke and his squad is a tri-meet against Notre Dame and Indiana.
Auburn has reigning NCAA champion Olivia Scott (100 butterfly) to lead them through a dual-meet schedule that will also include Texas and Florida as potential roadblocks to a perfect dual-meet season.
4. Stanford Cardinal
In Greg Meehan’s first season at Stanford, the women’s team showed no signs of slipping by winning the Pac-12 team title. Though the team faltered at the NCAA championships and placed eighth overall, the team got a big boost from Maya DiRado’s vast improvement, and that should power the team this year. Also on the roster is Olympian Lia Neal, who will give the Cardinal a strong relay presence and add some depth in the sprint freestyles.
Seniors DiRado and Felicia Lee are turning into the early-season MVPs with multiple wins in the first two dual meets of the season, helping Stanford beat San Jose State and Washington State.
5. Florida Gators
Though Florida posted a losing dual-meet percentage, the Gators came on strong in the postseason, placing third at the SEC championships and sixth at the NCAA championships. Gregg Troy does not often put a focus on dual meets with the mind of winning them, and though it might affect the Gators’ placing in the poll, few can argue that it does not pay off in the postseason.
Senior Elizabeth Beisel, the reigning NCAA champion in the 400 individual medley, will help the team with her ability to race in virtually any event and do well. That was evident in the All-Florida Invitational, the team’s first meet of the season. Natalie Hinds is also a key players in various events, and transfer Megan Rankin will help out in distance freestyle.
6. Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats swam the most dual meets of any team in the women’s top 10 last season, racing 14 different schools in dual- and tri-meet action. The team’s schedule looks fairly light leading up to the Texas Invitational, though USC will be a strong dual meet before tapering for the Texas Invite.
Margo Geer won the NCAA titles in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and is always reliable to score big in dual meets. Also one to watch this season is Bonnie Brandon, who will use her versatility in freestyle and backstroke throughout the season.
7. Tennessee Volunteers
The Volunteers’ rise to a team trophy at the NCAA championships was one of the big stories of the 2012-2013 season. Matt Kredich’s first year at the helm of a combined men’s and women’s team — and his seventh working with the women’s team — was undoubtedly his best. The team beat future NCAA champion Georgia last January and showed no sign of slowing down. Kelsey Floyd was the team’s top performer in the postseason, swimming on the 200 free relay and 400 medley relay that won the NCAA title on the first night, then following it up with a 200 medley relay win the next day. Faith Johnson’s and Caroline Simmons’ appearance in the 50 freestyle final also gave the team’s performance a boost that will carry into this season.
With Floyd completing her eligibility last season, the team looks elsewhere to fill the void. Johnson will continue to be a leader in her sophomore year, while Molly Hannis will try to move up the ranks in the breaststroke events. The team has already posted the first dual meet win of the season, beating UNC-Wilmington. The team has an intrasquad meet this weekend before resuming dual-meet action on October 18 with South Carolina.
8. Georgia Bulldogs
Though the Georgia Bulldogs were able to continue the home-meet winning streak and win the SEC title last season, their loss to Tennessee affected their place in the voting. The team sticks with mostly conference foes on this season’s dual meet schedule, with the exception of Texas on January 11. The lack of extremely tough dual meets might affect their place in the rankings, and the team will be looking to step up after the graduations of heavy hitters Allison Schmitt and Megan Romano. The first dual meet for the Bulldogs was September 25, a “double distance” meet against Kentucky that the Bulldogs won handily.
9. Texas Longhorns
Carol Capitani’s first year as head coach at Texas was a mixed bag in the 2012-2013 season. Laura Sogar closed out her collegiate career with an NCAA title in the 200 breast, while a few others made the championship final and helped Texas place ninth at the meet.
This season, Sarah Denninghoff will likely be the team leader. After an impressive summer that included top-four finishes in the 100 and 200 backstrokes at the USA Swimming championships, Denninghoff will need that success for Texas to stay in the top 10. The addition of world championship diver Murphy Bromberg will be a big help.
10. Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M moved into the Southeast Conference with ease, placing second behind Georgia. The team placed as high as second in the CSCAA poll, thanks to a superb performance at the Phill Hansel Invitational that included American records in the breaststrokes for Breeja Larson and strong swims from Sarah Henry and Cammille Adams. All three are back for this season, and will likely put a strong focus on the Art Adamson Invitational at home with the goal of gaining multiple NCAA automatic qualifying times.
First up is a dual meet against Vanderbilt Saturday in Nashville.
11. Virginia Cavaliers
The Cavaliers had an undefeated season, though they only raced against Atlantic Coast Conference teams twice, a big boost for them that almost got the team into the top 10 ranks. A new coach (Augie Busch) could be what the Cavaliers need to get into the coveted top 10 dual-meet rankings, though a couple of dual meets in the second half of the season could keep the team from another undefeated run.
In early November, Texas comes to Charlottesville for a quad meet with Penn State and West Virginia, and the improving team from Wisconsin will race Virginia in mid-January.
12. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota’s women’s team made some strides late last season with a dual-meet win against Wisconsin that helped them take the Big 10 conference title a month later. With the graduation of breaststroker Haley Spencer, the team will look to Tess Behrens and Lauren Votava to help repeat as Big 10 champions and hopefully post another undefeated season.
13. Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers swam some tough dual meets last season, losing to strong teams such as Texas and Tennessee and lighter rivals Penn State and Virginia. Indiana tends to build through the season, putting strong focus on the final two meets of the season, the Big 10 and NCAA championships, instead of opting for a mid-season taper which could boost their place in the ranking. The first meet is a big one, a tri-meet at Notre Dame that also includes Auburn.
14. University of California-Los Angeles Bruins
UCLA had essentially cruised through the dual meet season with an 11-0 record last season, even doing the unthinkable and beating Arizona thanks to a disqualification. Then they capped off dual meet action with losses to USC, Stanford and Cal, but had some solid performers throughout the season. That should continue this season, starting with San Diego on Saturday, but the Bruins might not be lucky this year against Arizona.
15. North Carolina Tar Heels
Buoyed in the early part of the season by distance freestyler Stephanie Peacock, the North Carolina Tar Heels were a strong force at the Ohio State Invitational in late November. Though illness derailed Peacock for the second part of the season, the senior star looks to be in fine form, and the team gets started with college racing Friday at the Virginia Tech Sprint Challenge.
16. Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals only raced in six dual meets through last season, but were strong opponents against such teams as Indiana and Tennessee. As she was last season, Kelsi Worrell should be a consistent dual-meet performer, and she’ll show that consistency Friday against Xavier.
17. Wisconsin Badgers
The women’s team at Wisconsin is working to achieve the level of greatness their male counterparts enjoyed this past season, and will be putting in some tough racing throughout the entire season in what head coach Whitney Hite says is “the toughest schedule of anyone in the country.” The team started out with a two-day meet against Georgia last weekend, with Ivy Martin giving the team wins in the sprint freestyle events despite losing the overall meet. The Badgers will be traveling a lot this season, with their only home meet scheduled for October 18 against Minnesota.
T18. Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas is a team that wants to break out of its SEC slump and did very well in 2012-2013 with a 10-1 dual meet record. Their only loss came to Georgia, with top wins against ranked teams Penn State and Florida State. The team started off with a blowout victory over North Texas on Saturday, and will continue the season against conference rival LSU on October 19.
T18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Led by a breakout season from Emma Reaney, the women at Notre Dame had a strong year in the pool, highlighted by a win over Michigan and some lopsided victories over mid-major teams. First up in the 2013-2014 season is the annual Dennis Stark Relays on Friday followed by the tri-meet against Auburn and Indiana on Saturday.
20. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes finished the regular season strong with wins over three teams at the Northwestern Invite. This year’s schedule looks pretty light in terms of competition, with the team racing Division III Kenyon on October 25, as well as in-state teams Ohio University and Toledo. The Buckeyes could find themselves in a fight when Michigan and Nebraska come to Columbus for a two-day meet on January 31.
21. Michigan Wolverines
To say that the women’s team at Michigan has a long road ahead of it to catch up to the stature of the men’s team is an understatement, but each year holds much promise under head coach Mike Bottom. The toughest meet on the 2013-2014 schedule looks to be a tri-meet against Texas and Indiana on October 25 and 26, with a likely boost in the rankings after competition at the USA Swimming nationals in December. The team is off to a good start, beating Iowa on September 27.
T22. Harvard Crimson
The Harvard team went quietly about its way through last season, building up to the always-exciting tri-meet against Yale and Princeton. By beating both teams last February, the Crimson broke into the top 25 and will hope to find their way back into the rankings when the team begins competition in November, with Columbia first on the list.
T22. Florida State Seminoles
The Florida State women’s team had a rollercoaster season, beating Florida but losing to Arkansas. But the team is always strong in dual meet action, posting a 13-1 record and going unbeaten in Atlantic Coast Conference competition. The women were second at the All-Florida Invite on the strength of wins by Kaitlyn Dressel (50 and 100 free) and Madison Jacobi (1650 free), and the first dual meet of the season comes Friday against West Florida and Tulane.
24. Penn State Nittany Lions
The ladies of Penn State will start this season as they started the last one, with a dual meet against West Virginia on October 18. They’ll race West Virginia’s Mountaineers again in early November in a quad-meet that will challenge the team the most this year, facing Texas and Virginia.
25. Arizona State Sun Devils
Despite a losing record in the Pac 12 conference, Arizona State performed well in the dual-meet season, with strong victories over lesser conference rivals offsetting the tough losses against the heavyweights. The Sun Devils lost to Minnesota last weekend on the road, and could get back in the win column in the next few weeks with meets against
The following teams also received votes in the final CSCAA poll of the 2012-2013 season: Princeton, SMU, N.C. State, Purdue, Utah and Missouri.