December 4, 2012

Sixth-ranked South Siders enter new year with high expectations

The Maroons will head into UAAs and NCAAs after winter break with a solid team atmosphere and higher expectations than in past years. They are ranked sixth in the nation.

The women have had a strong showing so far, as they won their meets against Wheaton (192–47) and Washington–St. Louis (166–122).

The biggest indicator of how they will perform the rest of the season was the Phoenix Fall Classic. The women were narrowly defeated and were stuck with second place, but had great individual predictors of strong performance for the upcoming season. The team had several NCAA time cuts and five first-place finishes.

The swimmers are confident that, because they will be hosting the UAA conference, the team will have extra motivation to set pool records.

“What you saw at our fall invite is a really good indicator for how strong we’re going to be at UAAs this year,” fourth-year swimmer Julie Pendleton said.

The Fall Classic shone a light on first-year Ciara Hu and fourth-year Kathleen Taylor, who can be expected to stand out in the upcoming invitational meets. Hu set a pool record in the prelims for the 200-yard butterfly, earning her an NCAA B-cut with a time of 2:05.78. Taylor finished first in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:04.06 and a narrow win by 1.5 seconds in the 1,650-yard freestyle with in a time of 17:24.27.

Looking ahead, Pendleton said she and her teammates feel that the team seems stronger than in seasons past because of an unprecedented team dynamic and atmosphere that leads to better performances.

“People have bounced back really well after tough meets and tough swims. For example, during the Fall Classic one day we had a really tough morning. [Because of the team support], we got our head back in the game and we really pulled it out for finals at night. We made back nearly 50 points. That’s going to be extremely important come the championship season, with the UAA conference meet and NCAAs.”

Pendleton added that this season has been the fastest practicing she’s ever experienced, but that her teammates are all willing to work together at this new pace.

“This year is the most supportive, by far, and it’s really helping our swimming,” she said.

The Maroons will look to improve on their weaknesses as their practices become more individualized in the upcoming season and in their training trip in Puerto Rico over winter break.

The women have high hopes for a shot at beating their only DI opponent this season, UW–Milwaukee, on January 19 at home.

“Every year we’ve been getting closer and closer to getting them, so this year it looks like we might actually have a shot at getting them,” Pendleton said. “If we could do that, it would give us a huge surge of confidence going into UAAs.”

Before the UAA Championship at home from February 13 to 16, the women will also host the Chicago Invitational on January 11 and 12. They will swim at DePauw on January 26, and the Midwest Invitational on February 22 and 23.