Women’s NCAA Swimming’s Biggest Stars Set For Invite Showdowns

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Wisconsin's Beata Nelson is the top backstroke contender this season. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Midseason tapers have begun and the top women’s NCAA swimming teams will start to get their first real glimpses at what the end of the season could look like as midseason invitationals begin in full force this week.

There are seven major meets which include 30-plus NCAA Division I teams in power five conferences, making for a packed weekend of competition at the midseason’s highest level.

Many of the NCAA’s top stars will be competing at big invites, including Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson, USC’s Louise Hansson, Stanford’s Brooke Forde, Florida’s Sherridon Dressel and Tennessee’s Erika Brown — just to name a few.

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The invitationals

There are several other big invitationals this weekend across the country.

  • The Tennessee invite will feature the No. 2 Volunteers alongside No. 8 Georgia, No. 16 Indiana and No. 4 Virginia.
  • The Texas A&M invite also will feature some of the most powerful women’s teams and individuals as the No. 20 Aggies host No. 6 Stanford and No. 10 USC.
  • The Georgia Tech invite will feature the host Yellowjackets as well as Alabama, No. 1 Florida, No. 26 Florida State, No. 23 North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah.
  • The NC State invite will feature the host Wolfpack as well as Arizona State, No. 13 Auburn, No. 11 Duke and No. 19 Wisconsin.
  • The Ohio State invite will feature the No. 14 Buckeyes as well as No. 15 Kentucky, Notre Dame, No. 25 UCLA and Virginia Tech.
  • Purdue’s invite will feature the Boilermakers, Louisville and Pitt, while Missouri’s invite will feature the Tigers, Arkansas and Nebraska.

Top Women’s NCAA Swimming storylines to watch

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Can anyone catch Beata Nelson?

Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson stunned the NCAA field by winning the 100 back, 200 back and 200 IM at last year’s NCAA championships.

She took down Stanford’s Ella Eastin in the 200 IM and held off a plethora of elite backstrokers like Cal’s Amy Bilquist, Stanford’s Taylor Ruck, Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil and Kentucky’s Asia Seidt.

Nelson will face Auburn’s Sonnele Oeztuerk in the 200 back at the NC State invite, as well as NC Stat’s Kylee Alons. These will be big early tests for Nelson, who has the top time in the 100 back so far this season in 51.31. Alons is at 53.02, seventh-fastest so far.

The big showdown could be in the 200 back as Nelson, who again has the fastest time in the NCAA this year at 1:52.49, will face Oeztuerk, who is third at 1:53.25. If that wasn’t enough, NC State’s Emma Muzzy has the fourth-fastest time this year in 1:54.00.

 

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Kate Douglass; Photo Courtesy: Virginia Athletics

How fast is freshman Kate Douglass?

Virginia’s Kate Douglass has been nothing short of dominant as a freshman, already having asserted her presence on the national stage. But now, Douglass will be competing head to head with some of the top contenders.

The freshman from Pelham, N.Y., has the top time in the NCAA this year so far in the 200 breaststroke (2:07.92) as well as the top time in the 200 IM (1:55.15).

At the Tennessee invite, Douglass will be up against Tennessee All-American Meghan Small as well as Georgia senior stud Veronica Burchill.

This early test for the trio could bring out some early eye-opening times across the board.

 

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Vanessa Pearl; Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Will Florida show up like a top-ranked women’s NCAA swimming team?

The Gators have earned the top ranking for the first time in more than a decade. They have enjoyed plenty of great performances, led by Sherridon Dressel (backstroke and sprint free) and Vanessa Pearl (breaststroke and IM). Leah Brasewell has put together a strong 500 free already at 4:46.38. Rosie Zavaros has shined in the 200 back (1:54.94).

The big test this weekend will be their relays. For the Gators to finish as high as they are hoping at the NCAA championships, the relays will have to be strong. Facing deep times at the Georgia Tech invite like Alabama and North Carolina, this will be a perfect chance for the Gators to showcase their strong relays.

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Sophie Hansson; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Which Hansson will have the best start?

USC’s Louise Hansson and NC State’s Sophie Hansson enjoyed their first season swimming together in the NCAA, although the Swedish stars were competing for schools on opposite sides of the country.

Last year, Louise continued her dominance in the 100 fly, claiming the NCAA title and breaking the NCAA record in the event.

Meanwhile, Sophie was a freshman who had a breakout season in the breaststroke for the Wolfpack. She became the key component in rounding out their relays and will be even bigger for NC State this year.

Louise will compete with the Trojans as the Texas A&M invite and will also have her first of many showdowns with Standford this season.

Sophie will compete at the NC State invite, where she will go up against upstart Duke as well as Wisconsin, Auburn and Arizona State.

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Erika Brown; Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

How will the Women’s NCAA Swimming sprinters fare with an early taper?

Douglass could also swim the 50 freestyle this weekend. She has the fourth-fastest time of the season in 22.12. If she does, she will go head-to-head with Tennessee’s Erika Brown, who is second this season in 21.96 and set the NCAA record at the SEC championships last year.

Other sprinters will be looking for open water in races across the country.

USC’s Marta Ciesla and Arkansas’ Anna Hopkin each have turned in 22.21 times this season, tied for seventh fastest this season.

Auburn has seen strong performances from Julie Meynen (22.05) and Claire Fisch (22.18) this season.

Missouri’s Sarah Thompson (22.13), Indiana’s Cora Dupre (22.37), Virginia’s Morgan Hill (22.52) and Duke’s Alyssa Marsh (22.54) will also be on display in a variety of invites across the country.

This is a perfect chance to work on starts and turns and get some top-level competition with mid-season taper.

Who will get their hand to the wall fastest?