13 February 2007

Previewing the Women's Championship

This written preview will appear in the printed event program this weekend. It's provided here as a bonus for "psychesheet" readers:

DeNunzio Pool is going to get itself a workout in fast swims and bouncing diving boards these next two weekends. First, it’s the Ivy women who invade as Princeton looks to defend its Ivy championship. A week from now, the men of the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League — that’s the eight Ivies, plus Navy — will be in the house for three more days of top-notch Division I competition.

The Princeton women have made standing atop the victory stand a commonplace occurrence in recent years, winning six of the last seven Ivy titles. With a perfect 7-0 record in dual meets, the Tigers will be a force this weekend in their home pool. Head coach Susan Teeter’s women will be presented the dual-meet trophy in a special ceremony before Thursday evening’s finals. Ellen Gray won two golds at last year’s championship at Harvard with victories in the 1,000 and 1,650 freestyles. She will be pushed by her freshman teammate, Alicia Aemisegger.

Harvard looks to regain the form that took the team to the Ivy championship the last time the event was here in Princeton (2005). “As far as the season goes, considering the number of injuries and illnesses that we were dealing with, the team raced well,” said head coach Stephanie Wriede Morawski, “I admire their tenacity.” Any discussion of Harvard swimming begins with senior Noelle Bassi, who returns to her home state as the 2006 Swimmer of the Meet at Ivies. Bassi set a meet and League record last year with a 1:58.01 in the 200 fly. It was the only meet record established in ’06. Diver Samantha Papadakis won silver last year in both the 1- and 3-meter competitions.

The Frank Keefe Trophy, symbol of the Ivy championship, goes to the winning team at this weekend’s competition. The League is fortunate that the man for whom the trophy is named still coaches the Yale women’s and men’s programs. Coach Keefe will look to backstroker Moira McCloskey for more memorable Ivy performances. Last year, she was the gold medalist in both the 100 and 200 backstrokes. McCloskey should feel at home here in DeNunzio — she won the 100 back and was second in the 200 at the H-Y-P meet a couple of weeks ago.

Penn head coach Mike Schnur is proud of his team’s second straight winning dual-meet season in the Ivy League. “The Ivy League championship meet is a tremendous opportunity to compete against some of the finest student-athletes in the country,” Schnur said. “We are looking forward to the challenge.” Freshman Sara Coenen is undefeated this season in the 100 and 200 backstrokes and the 200 free.

Columbia has a head coach who is very familiar with the surroundings here in Princeton. Diana Caskey was a standout swimmer for the Tigers, and she has made Columbia swimming a consistently competitive program. The Lions left their mark in Blodgett Pool at last year’s Ivies by winning the meet’s final event in an upset. The foursome of Hannah Galey, Kathryn Taylor, Casey Weddie and Mary McCue took gold in the 400 free relay.

Head coach Peter Brown looks for improvement from his Brown Bears. “I am confident in our ability to accomplish [a higher team finish] because of the squad’s training consistency to date and also because of the strong leadership put forth by our large senior class of swimmers and divers,” said Brown. Brown got the 1-meter diving gold from the graduated Jessica Larson last year. A returning silver medalist is Ashley Wallace, who was second in the 200 fly.

This will be the first Ivy women’s championship for Dartmouth head coach Jim Wilson. He is no stranger to the League, however, serving as the Big Green’s head coach of men’s swimming for 14 years. Dartmouth welcomes back a 2006 silver medalist in Lizzie Rippe, who was the runner-up in the 100 fly last winter.

Cornell has had some success in recent years at the Ivy championships as well. The now-graduated Jessica Brookman took Ivy gold in the 100 fly last season. You might see head coach John Holohan's Red on the awards stand again in that same event this weekend — Leah Tourtellotte has the fourth-fastest time in the League this season.

Princeton also seems to be the team to beat in diving. The Tigers have four returning finalists and two others in last year’s top 16. Papadakis from Harvard made both finals, as did Michelle DeMond and Katie Giarra from Princeton. Penn also has a returning finalist, Janis Scanlon, but these divers are joined by strong dual meet competitors from the other schools.