Big Ten Weekly Swim Preview: Michigan-Louisville ‘Tripleheader’ Showdown

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Michigan's Aaron Whitaker. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Dan D’Addona.

The college swimming season takes its first big lap this week with plenty of strong matchups to get things rolling. Here is what to watch for in the Big Ten:

Meet of the Week: Michigan vs. Louisville

The biggest meet of the week is a three-session powerhouse meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as the Wolverines host Louisville. The meet is being dubbed a “tripleheader” and each session will be scored separately. Whichever team wins at least two of the three sessions will win the meet, which begins Friday, Oct. 7 and ends Saturday, Oct. 8.

“We’re always looking for creative ways to make our sport more enjoyable for student-athletes and fans alike,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said on mgoblue.com. “Our baseball and softball teams play multiple games in a series with an opponent, and the coaches get to make calls on the fly. We are going to emulate that in this series.”

Each session will consist of nine events for men and women: six individual (distance freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, sprint freestyle, backstroke, individual medley), two relays (freestyle, medley) and one diving event. Before warm-up, the distance for each of the swimming events will be chosen at random and coaches will have to make their entries on the spot. Swimmers can be entered in three events with a maximum of two individual events. The same process will be done for the second and third sessions with the remaining distances.

As intriguing as the format is, the same is true of the matchups.

Both teams finished in the top 12 at the NCAA championships in both the men’s and women’s meets and return plenty of firepower.

Louisville finished 11th at last year’s NCAA men’s championships, one spot ahead of Michigan, which won the national championship three years ago before Texas took over with back-to-back titles.

In the women’s NCAA meet, Louisville finished eighth and Michigan finished 10th coming off of its first Big Ten championship in 12 years.

Louisville is led by breaststroker Andrea Cottrell. The senior was recently named to the U.S. national team in the 100-meter breaststroke, following her performance at the U.S. Olympic trials.

Michigan, meanwhile, is still led by some sister power. National team member Ali DeLoof has graduated but Gabby DeLoof and Catie DeLoof, also Olympic trials qualifiers, return for the Wolverines. Freshman Emily Eastin will make her collegiate debut. She is the younger sister of Stanford All-American swimmer Ella Eastin.

On the men’s side, Aaron Whitaker, brother of former national team member Kyle Whitaker, is back for his junior season at Michigan after finishing 14th at the Olympic trials in the 100 butterfly. Diver Collin DeShaw could bring some major points for the Wolverines, too.

Wisconsin vs. Auburn

The Badgers have a trio of preseason All-Americans in Cierra Runge, Chase Kinney and Beata Nelson who are looking to get a fast start to their season when they host Auburn on Saturday, Oct. 8. Wisconsin finished 21st at the NCAA championships last season and are looking to build the program back into a top-10 team behind this talented trio. Auburn, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back from a 33rd place finish at the NCAA meet. The Tigers were a perennial top 10 team and are looking to return to that form, as the men’s team did, finishing 10th at NCAAs. The Badgers were 18th, making this men’s matchup pretty intriguing, too.

Minnesota vs. Florida St./Duke

The Golden Gophers finished 16th at the NCAA championships and are eyeing the top 10 this season. Minnesota opens the season with a double dual against Florida State and Duke. All three teams scored at the NCAA meet last year, making this an important start for each team.

Ohio St./Rutgers at Florida Gulf Coast invite

The Ohio State and Rutgers women’s teams will compete at the Florida Gulf Coast invite, along with a plethora of teams from across the country. Rutgers and Florida Gulf Coast each scored one point at last year’s NCAA meet and are looking to add to that total this season. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, finished 14th at the NCAA meet and are looking strong again this season, led by preseason All-Americans Lindsey Clary and Liz Li.

Nebraska vs. Iowa St.

In a Midwest dual meet, Nebraska will face Iowa State. On Saturday, Oct. 8. Two-time captain Erin Oeltjen will be pivotal for the Cornhuskers this season. She has big meet experience after competing at the Olympic trials and will be counted on for leadership as Nebraska looks to make a move in the Big Ten this season.

Penn St. vs. Towson

The Nittany Lions host Towson on Thursday, Oct. 6, to kick off their season. Senior Casey Francis returns after making the NCAA championships as a junior in multiple events. She will be pivotal to Penn State this season after the Nittany Lions graduate several NCAA qualifiers last year.