NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- After weeks of intense training and two scrimmages, the Yale women's swimming and diving team is prepared to open the 2013-14 campaign. With the influx of 10 talented freshmen and increased contributions from the returning athletes, Yale looks to build on last year's fourth-place finish at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships.
The Bulldogs had a strong 2012-13 regular season. Yale finished in a three-way for second place in the Ivy League with Columbia and Princeton, with a record of 5-2. The Bulldogs defeated Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth and Penn, falling only to Harvard and eventual Ivy League champion Princeton. The squad set school records in 14 of 19 possible events and set three Ivy League records. Seven Bulldogs were recognized with All-Ivy honors, including graduated senior Paige Meneses '13, who was named the Ron Keenhold Career High Point Diver.
Yale graduated seven seniors in May, including swimmers Molly Albrecht '13, Alexandra Forrester '13, Victoria Lawrence '13, Cynthia Tsay '13 and 2012-13 captain Joan Weaver '13 as well as divers Meneses and Megan Harada '13. Stepping up to replace them as team leaders will be six seniors, swimmers Gabrielle Bunney, captain Chelsea Dunlap, Angela Lee, Courtney Randolph and Allison West and diver Christina Brasco.
Yale's young diving team will be led by freshman Lilybet MacRae, who is expected to be one of the top rookies in the Ivy League this season. Another freshman, Olivia Loucks, is also likely to make big contributions for the Bulldogs right away. A trio of sophomores, Danielle DeNunzio, Olivia Grinker and Kelly Sherman, all return with a season of Ivy League experience and look to continue making great strides forward. DeNunzio showed promise last year, especially in the dual meet against Southern Connecticut, where she scored season highs in both the three- and one-meter events. Grinker had an extremely solid freshman campaign, punctuated by the Brown dual, where she finished second in the three-meter and third in the one-meter events. Sherman also had a successful first season with the Bulldogs, the highlight being her third-place finish on the one-meter board against Southern Connecticut. Brasco, the lone senior diver, brings experience and leadership to a team that is otherwise composed entirely of freshmen and sophomores.
The distance freestyle events will again be dominated by sophomore Eva Fabian, who delivered a number of extraordinary performances during her freshman season. Fabian won both the 1650- and 1000-yard freestyle events at the Ivy League Championships and finished second in the 500-yard freestyle at Ivy's. Perhaps her most impressive performance of 2013, however, was her bronze medal finish in the 25k swim at the FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships this summer, where she finished only .7 seconds out of first place. Freshman Isla Hutchinson-Maddox will look to push Fabian in both training and competition, as she will also compete in the 1650, 1000 and 500. Sophomore Casey Lincoln is set to improve on her very successful freshman campaign. Lincoln finished third at Ivy's in both the 1650- and 1000-yard freestyle events. Rounding out the distance events for the Bulldogs will be freshmen Olivia Jameson and Anna Wujciak and junior Jacqui Levere, each of who will add depth in the 500-yard freestyle.
This year, the middle-distance freestyle events will be feature major contributions from a number of freshmen. Wujciak will make a particularly strong impact in the middle distance events. One of the top freshmen in the country, she will be among the team leaders in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle. Another freshman, Kina Zhou, was New York state champion in both the 100- and 200-yard freestyle and will be among the Bulldogs' top performers in those events this year. Jameson, Massachusetts state champion in the 200-yard freestyle, will make an impact in that event for the Bulldogs this year. Freshman MacKenzie Franklin, four-time Scholastic All-American, will be a factor in the 100- and 200- from day one. In addition to the freshmen, a number of returning swimmers will provide speed in these events for the Bulldogs. Junior Rebecca DeLaFuente had a solid 2013 season, finishing third in the 200- in the dual meet against Southern Connecticut, and will compete in the 100- and 200- this year. Sophomore Emily Gudbranson delivered a particularly strong performance against Brown last year, finishing third in the 200-yard freestyle against the Bears, and will build off her impressive freshman year in 2013-14, racing in the 100- and 200-. Gabrielle Bunney, the lone senior among the mid-distance freestylers, assumes an important leadership role this year and will swim both the 100- and 200-.
The sprint freestyle events will also see freshmen playing an important role for the Bulldogs this year. Zhou, Wujciak and Franklin will all be swimming in the 50-yard free and all figure to be members of Yale's relays this season. All three bring with them lots of high-level experience and should deliver positive results in their first seasons competing for Yale. Gudbranson and Bunney will add depth and experience in the sprint events; each will race the 50-yard freestyle for the Bulldogs.
Freshman Michelle Chintanaphol is a backstroke specialist and she will make an immediate splash for the Bulldogs in both the 100- and 200-yard events. Jameson will also provide speed for the Bulldogs in both backstroke events. Senior Courtney Randolph, who won the 200-yard backstroke against Southern Connecticut last season, looks to continue her excellence in the 200- this season. Another freshman, Elizabeth Fosburgh, will be in the mix in both the 100- and 200-yard events this year.
While this year's strong freshman class will make its mark in many races for the Bulldogs, the breaststroke events will be dominated by returning athletes. Sophomore Ali Stephens-Pickeral finished eighth at last year's Ivy League Championships in the 100-yard breaststroke and returns primed for a strong second season competing in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. Junior Jacqui Levere won bronze medals in both the 200- and 100-meter breaststroke events at the Maccabiah Games this summer and will carry that momentum into the coming season. Sophomore Emma Smith had a strong freshman season, finishing fifth at the Ivy League Championships in the 200-yard breaststroke, and will again compete in the 200-yard breaststroke this year. Junior Elizabeth Larsen finished 20th in both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events at Ivy's last year and returns ready to improve on those results this year. Senior Angela Lee, who finished 21st at Ivy's in the 200-yard breaststroke, is ready for a strong senior campaign in the breaststroke events. Senior and captain Chelsea Dunlap returns after missing last season due to injury and is ready to finish her Yale career on a high note, competing in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke.
In the butterfly events, freshmen Sydney Hirschi and Hutchinson-Maddox are expected to be top swimmers for Yale this year. Hirschi will compete in both the 100- and 200-yard events while Hutchinson-Maddox will be featured in the 200-. Senior Allison West won the 100-yard butterfly against Southern Connecticut last season and will race both the 100- and 200- this year. Sophomore Kasey Mann finished 23rd at Ivy's in the 100- and is ready to take a leap forward this season, racing in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly. Fosburgh will be competing in the 100- and 200- for the Bulldogs in addition to the backstroke. Sophomore newcomer Catherine Wang is ready to test her speed in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly this season.
Yale will be led in the individual medleys by Smith, who will compete in both the 200- and 400-yard IMs. Last season, Smith was honored with the Tim Jecko Award for outstanding performance in the individual medley, and her fifth-place finish in the 400-yard IM at Ivy's showed why. Randolph finished seventh at Ivy's and will also be competing in both IMs. Also racing in the 200-yard IM for the Bulldogs will be Hirschi, Chintanaphol, Larsen, Lee and Stephens-Pickeral, while the 400- will also be contested by Levere and West.
Robert J.H. Kiphuth Head Coach Jim Henry returns for his second season at the helm of the Bulldogs and has high expectations for the coming season. His goals for the team are to improve on last year's results in Ivy League dual meets, where Yale finished tied for second, and at the Ivy League Championships, where the Bulldogs finished in fourth place.
With an especially young team (20 of 29 swimmers and divers are either freshmen or sophomores) Henry is emphasizing steady, consistent improvement as the key to the season's success.
"Every swimmer and diver will be counted on to contribute in some way either in meets or in practice on a daily basis," Henry said. "It is going to take a team effort for us to maximize our performances. We graduated a strong class in 2013 which will leave plenty of opportunities for all to step up."
Henry will again be joined by assistant coach Danielle Korman and head diving coach Chris Bergere.
The 2013-14 campaign officially opens on Nov. 8 at home against crosstown rival Southern Connecticut State. The following week, the Bulldogs will travel to New York to face Columbia in their only Ivy League dual meet prior to Winter Break. Yale will also travel to face Bridgeport on Nov. 22 and will compete in the Princeton Invitational from Dec. 6-8, rounding out the 2013 portion of its schedule.
Upon returning to campus following Winter Break, the Ivy League season begins in earnest, with a home dual meet against Cornell on Jan. 8 and a home tri-meet against Dartmouth and Penn on Jan. 11. Following a dual meet at the University of New Hampshire on Jan. 24, Yale hosts Harvard and Princeton for a two-day tri-meet on Feb. 1 and 2. The Bulldogs' final regular season Ivy competition will be a dual meet against Brown in Providence on Feb. 8.
Following the Brown meet, the Bulldogs will begin to build for Ivy Championships, which will be hosted by Brown from Feb. 20-22. Athletes that qualify will compete at the NCAA championships in Minneapolis from Mar. 20-22.
Report filed by Lyon Van Voorhis '15, Yale Sports Publicity.