Open Nov. 13 At Columbia
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale women's swimming and diving team is ready to build upon last year's success as they get set to take on the 2009-10 season. The Bulldogs return almost all of their swimmers who scored points in last year's Ivy League Championship and have added some impressive freshmen to the mix. As Robert J.H. Kiphuth Director of Swimming Frank Keefe prepares for his final season as coach of the Bulldogs, it is shaping up to be one of his best.
"You look at the Ivy League this year and it's going to be about the same as last year," says Keefe. "Princeton will be the favorite with Harvard closely behind them. We will be right there. We'd love to knock one of them off the top at HYP. The only thing holding us back would be depth."
Last year, the Bulldogs finished with six wins and five loses in dual meets, but capped off the season with a third-place finish at the Ivy League Championships. The Bulldogs will get another shot at everyone of their losses, beginning this weekend with Columbia.
"Columbia gave us a good run last year," says Keefe. "They beat the women and the men's meet was close."
For the group of incoming freshmen, it will be their first real tests against another collegiate opponent.
"For the freshmen it is always a good first test," says Keefe. "There are really two types of freshmen. Either they swam for a club which swam fast twice a year or they swam for their high school where they dominated for years. Either way they come here and it is entirely different. They will try to look at last year's results to get an idea, but they never really know what college swimming is like until they get into that first meet."
Only ten points separated the Bulldogs from the Lions last year in a meet that could have gone either way. Senior Susan Kim, junior Ileana Lucos and sophomores Abigail Nunn and Emily Dominski all won events in that meet. The Bulldogs also won the 400-yard freestyle relay with this year's senior captain Andrea Clifford, sophomore Hayes Hyde, Alexis Mann '09 and Dominski.
"Being in New York will be more difficult than being at home," says Keefe. "They are going to be very good meets. We have to avoid giving away too many points to start out and we need to make sure our freshmen get going, because they are going to be very important to our success."
After Columbia, the Bulldogs head to the Terrier Invitational, where they placed ninth last year. They then round out the Fall season with dual meets against Southern Connecticut and Vermont. The Bulldogs took care of Southern Connecticut last year, despite a strong effort from SCSU's Kristen Frost who transferred from Georgia her freshman year. Vermont will be a new test for Yale.
The Bulldogs will then return home for a few days to celebrate the holidays, but will head right back to New Haven on December 28th to start training.
Once school opens again for second semester, Yale's season gets into full swing with dual meets on five consecutive weekends as well as a mid-week dual with Brown. The weekend duals will be against Cornell, Dartmouth/Penn, Navy, Harvard/Princeton, and finally UConn. The Bulldogs lost to Columbia, Navy, Harvard, Princeton and UConn last year, so many of these will be chances for redemption.
"We finish up with UConn which is a scholarship school," says Keefe. "They will be good competition leading up to the conference championship."
The Bulldogs will then head into the Ivy League Championships on Feb. 27-29. Last year, the Bulldogs had one of their best meets in recent history. The team took third overall behind Harvard and Princeton, while holding off a charging Penn and Columbia on the final day. The stars of the meet were Hyde and Kim who both earned first team All-Ivy honors for their efforts. Kim swam in five A finals winning the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke, while setting records in both for Yale, the meet, and the Ivy League. She also finished fifth in the 200-yard IM. Hyde swam in seven A finals and finished first in the 200-yard butterfly, second in the 200-yard IM and third in the 100-yard butterfly. She also broke the Yale record in the 200-yard IM. Four other Bulldogs earned second team All-Ivy honors for their work on the 200-yard freestyle relay: Clifford, Lucos, Mann, and sophomore Erica Kao.
The Bulldogs graduated six senior swimmers and one senior diver from the squad they took to the Ivy League Championship. However, many of Yale's points from the Ivy League Championship were scored by underclassmen. Hyde and Kim accounted for many of the points, but they were helped by Clifford, junior Kristin Darwin, sophomore Caroline Dewing, Kao, junior Annie Killian, Lucos, Nunn and divers sophomore Elizabeth Andrekovich, senior Marisa J Poverman, and sophomore Rachel Rosenberg.
"The women's team this year isn't looking to replace swimmers that graduated, but rather step up their own talent," says Keefe.
The women this year are led by Clifford. Elected by her teammates, Clifford has become a crucial member of the squad competing in freestyle and butterfly events. At last year's Ivy League Championships, she took fifth in the 50-yard freestyle, ninth in the 100-yard butterfly and 18th in the 100-yard freestyle. She also contributed to numerous relays at the event.
"Andrea Clifford keeps getting better and better every year at sprint freestyle and butterfly," says Keefe. "Andrea is a lot like last year's captain Aidan McKinley. They are both the strong quiet type. I remember freshman year she never said a word to me and I told her heading into sophomore year she had to make a point of saying hello and goodbye to me every day. At least that way she was guaranteed to say two things to me each day. But, as soon as Aidan became captain, she talked more than I had ever heard her talk since she was little girl, and Andrea will do the same thing."
Clifford will lead a team that features strong returners, strong freshman, and a diving class that according to Keefe could be their best ever. The divers for Yale this year will be Andrekovich, Poverman, Rosenberg and freshman Eileen Meneses.
"We have four women divers who could the best combination in 31 years," says Keefe. "They might not be the best individual divers, but Ryan Moehnke has done a very good job training them hard. I see the divers in the pool before class doing two hour workouts in addition to afternoon practice"
Joining Meneses in the freshman class will be Moly Albrecht, Caroline Bank, Margaret Brown, Alexandra Forrester, Victoria Lawrence, Elise Sowah, Cynthia Tsay and Monica Tung.
"This is a really strong freshman class," says Keefe. "Alex Forrester, for instance, was a finalist at the World Championship Trials. Her first time out she could break the Yale records in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly."
However you look at it, it appears the Bulldogs are ready to keep the momentum rolling from last year's finish at the Ivy League Championship.
"I think the team is well focused," says Keefe. "We're talking a lot about what you do when you walk in the door to practice. How you approach things and how you say focused. We're trying to learn life lessons on a daily basis. Winning is important and that is obviously our goal, but it is better to learn a lesson in a loss than to have not learned anything."
The Bulldogs will get their first chance at a win, and a little bit of revenge, this weekend as they travel to New York City to compete against Columbia. The event will take place on Nov. 13 at 4:00 p.m.
Report filed by Charles Moore '10, Yale Sports Publicity