NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In less than one week the Yale women's swimming and diving team will have its first meet of the year, and with it the 2012-13 season will commence. Last year the Bulldogs had a strong third-place finish at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships and this year it is all about carrying that momentum forward.
The 2011-12 campaign ended on a high note for the Bulldogs. Yale finished the dual season tied for fourth place in the Ivy League with a record of 3-4. The Bulldogs won against Cornell, Dartmouth and Penn but lost to Brown, Columbia, Harvard and Princeton. At the 2012 Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships, Yale made up for a narrow loss to Brown and a loss to Columbia to finish third behind Harvard and Princeton. Seven members of the Bulldog roster earned All-Ivy honors, with Hayes Hyde '12 being named Career High Point Swimmer and captain Rachel Rosenberg '12 being named Diver of the Meet.
In May of this year the Bulldogs graduated four seniors, Hyde, Rosenberg, Athena Liao '12 and Abigail Nunn '12. Filling their shoes this year are five swimmers and two divers, making for one of the largest senior classes in recent years. Molly Albrecht, Alexandra Forrester, Victoria Lawrence, Cynthia Tsay and captain Joan Weaver will lead things on the swimming side, while Megan Harada and Paige Meneses will look to put up some points from the diving boards.
While it will be hard to replace Rosenberg, who set Yale, meet and Ivy League records on three meter at Ivy's last February, diving coach Chris Bergère will have three freshmen to work with this year. Danielle DeNunzio, Olivia Grinker and Kelly Sherman are all new additions to the team, while Harada, Meneses and junior Christina Brasco are returning members. Meneses is primed to take point this season, having met the NCAA Zone Diving standard three times on one meter while posting consistent results during the dual season last year.
Forrester and Tsay will both be key players in the sprint freestyle discipline. Forrester set Yale records in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle at Ivy's last year. Tsay also put up a top-10 time in the 50 free at Ivy's while both Forrester and Tsay featured in the 400-yard freestyle relay that finished first at Ivy's and broke the previous school record. Also providing experience will be Lawrence, junior Gabrielle Bunney and sophomore Cassidy Lapp.
The strong middle-distance freestyle swimmers this year will likely include Albrecht, sophomore Rebecca DeLaFuente, freshman Emily Gudbranson and Weaver. At home against Cornell last year Weaver won the 50-, 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, but at Ivy's it was clear her strength was the 200-yard freestyle. There she posted a time of 1:48.29 to finish second and take down a Yale record that had stood since 2007. As a freshman DeLaFuente did well to win the consolation final in the 200 free with a time of 1:50.79, and will look to make it into the A final as a sophomore this year. Albrecht and Weaver both swam in the 800-yard freestyle relay that finished second at Ivy's to earn second-team All-Ivy honors and break the school record they had help to set at Ivy's in 2010.
This year's distance freestyle group will feature a trio of freshmen, Eva Fabian, Callie Fosburgh, and Casey Lincoln, along with upperclassmen contingent of Albrecht, Weaver and junior Courtney Randolph. Fabian arrives at Yale to carry the torch for Nunn, as both are distance swimmers who have competed extensively in open water swimming events on their own. Over the summer Nunn won the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, a 28.5-mile circumnavigation of the island of Manhattan in New York City. Not to be outdone, Fabian won the Open Water World Cup Lac St. Jean in Roberval, Quebec, Canada. Fabian completed the 10km swim on July 26 in a time of 2:02:04.07 to put another win on her resume that already includes a 5k World Championship title as well as 10k and 5k National Championship titles. Fabian swam the 400- and the 800-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials over the summer and will swim the 1650-, 1000- and 500-yard freestyle this season.
Looking to put up some good times this year in individual medleys will be Randolph, freshman Emma Smith and freshman Ali Stephens-Pickeral. Smith and Stephens-Pickeral both swam at Olympic Trials this summer, but it was Smith who qualified in both the 200-meter and 400-meter IM. Randolph had been very consistent in the 400-yard IM at Ivy's, finishing sixth a freshman and seventh this past year as a sophomore with a personal best time.
Yale's go-to backstroke swimmers this season will be Albrecht, Lawrence, Tsay and junior Michelle Huang. Tsay brought in second-team All-Ivy honors for a second-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke at Ivy's, while Albrecht posted a top-10 time at Ivy's in the 200-yard backstroke.
In the butterfly discipline, look out for Forrester, Lawrence, freshman Kasey Mann and junior Allison West. Forrester had an amazing butterfly performance last December at the 2011 AT&T Winter National Championships, finishing second in the 100-meter butterfly behind Dana Vollmer, who would go on to win gold this summer at the London Olympics. At NCAA's in March of this year Forrester finished in sixth place, breaking her own Yale record in the preliminaries and then again in the final where she clocked in at 51.93.
Finally this year's breaststroke squad will include Lapp, Stephens-Pickeral, junior Chelsea Dunlap, junior Angela Lee, sophomore Jacqui Levere and sophomore Elizabeth Larsen. Stephens-Pickeral swam in the 100-meter breaststroke at this summer's Olympic Trials, finishing well in the top half of the event at 59th place out of 152 total swimmers. Dunlap and Lapp both laid claim to the number two spot within the Yale squad in the breaststroke events at Ivy's, with Lapp edging Dunlap for the second position in the 100-yard breaststroke and Dunlap owning the second spot in the 200-yard breaststroke. Now that Liao has graduated, the top spot is up for grabs and all of the aforementioned breaststroke swimmers will look to fill the void.
Indeed the Bulldogs have a lot of momentum built up within the squad from stellar performances at Ivy's last February, but the team also did a good job of staying on the work over the summer. In May Weaver competed at Charlotte Ultraswim, a popular warm-up event for Olympic Trials and the Games themselves, swimming in the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle. Gudbranson competed at the 2012 Speedo Junior National Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., in August. Swimming for her home club the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, Gudbranson competed in three relays, the 400-meter free relay, the 800-meter free relay and the 400-meter medley relay. Forrester did not compete at Olympic Trials in June due to injury but she did compete at the U.S. Open, also in Indianapolis in August. At that event Forrester competed in the 100-meter butterfly, clocking in at 1:02.14 to finish 29th, and the 50-meter freestyle, posting a time of 26.76 for 36th place.
In addition to a new crop of freshmen, the Bulldogs also have a new coaching staff this season. Jim Henry was brought on to replace Cristina Teuscher as Yale's Robert J.H. Kiphuth Director of Swimming and Diving after coaching for six years at the University of Texas. Joining him is Danielle Korman, who will serve as assistant coach at Yale following a four-year stretch with the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays. For the senior class Henry will be the third head coach they have worked under, having spent freshman year with Frank Keefe and sophomore and junior year with Teuscher. Hopefully for this year's seven seniors, the third time is the charm.
First on the schedule for the Bulldogs is a scrimmage at Colgate with Lehigh on Oct. 27. Yale will then have another scrimmage against SCSU just down the road in New Haven on Nov. 2, but the first Ivy League meet will fall on Nov. 9 when Yale hosts Columbia. The Bulldogs will then race at Boston University's Terrier Invitational the weekend of The Game (Nov. 16-18), followed by the Brown Invitational in Providence, R.I., from Dec. 1-2.
When all of the fall championships and dual meets are through, the team will head south for a winter training trip in Cocoa Beach, Fla. From Dec. 27 to Jan. 3 the Bulldogs will get one week of training in warm weather before returning to campus and beginning the final push towards the Ivy League Championships in February.
Report filed by Tom Lynam '13, Yale Sports Publicity