The meet came down to the last two events. After an afternoon of frantic reorganization and changes in the lineup, the Bulldogs had clamored back within striking distance of the UConn Huskies and needed to win both the 200-yd individual medley and 400-yd freestyle relay to have a chance at winning the meet. The Huskies, energized by their home crowd and Senior day, were just too strong for the Bulldogs, winning the 200-yd individual medley to claim the meet victory, 157–143, on Saturday.
The Huskies were dominant in the first half of the meet, jumping to an early lead after successive wins in the 200-yd medley relay and 1000-yd freestyle. The Bulldogs soon became frustrated and concerned as what was anticipated to be a relatively easy meet was shaping into a challenging battle.
“Going into the meet, I think we were a little overconfident thinking that we were going to beat them,” Ileana Lucos ’11 explained. “The first few events, they won, which was a blow to our self-esteem. There was a whole range of emotions.”
In the 200-yd medley relay, the Bulldogs held an early lead thanks to Cynthia Tsay ’13, who had the fastest backstroke split in the field. By the time Hayes Hyde ’12 dove in for the butterfly leg, the UConn relay team established a 0.40 second lead. With a stellar 25.69 second split, Hyde leveled the field but could only watch in dismay as Meesh Ling of UConn swam the fastest freestyle split of the day, snatching first place away from the Bulldogs. The Yale relay team finished second in 1:47.65.
The Huskies went on to place first and second in the 1000-yd freestyle as captain Annie Killian ’11 and Maggie Brown ’13 took third and fourth with times of 10:37.11 and 10:46.07 respectively.
Joan Weaver ’13 and Hyde disrupted the Huskies’ winning streak, but only temporarily. They finished first and second respectively in the 200-yd freestyle. The next event, the 100-yd backstroke, saw another UConn victory. Tsay was stroke-for-stroke with Huskie swimmer Kati Kyle through the first three laps but was narrowly out-touched, 58.74 to 58.47.
The Bulldogs needed some more points not only to narrow the meet but to restore some energy to the team. Lucos and Liao provided the Bulldogs with the boost they needed. Behind after the first 50, Liao swam the strongest final two laps in the field to win the 100-yd breaststroke by two hundredths of a second. Lucos swam her race differently and took the lead in the 200-yd butterfly from the start. She led through every lap and won the event with a time of 2:04.32. She also won the 100-yd freestyle.
Lucos not only inspired her team with her performances in the water but also with her words. At the halfway point in the meet, she gathered the team together and encouraged everyone to attack each and every race.
“Ileana gave a great speech in the middle of the meet,” Liao said. “She told us there was no reason we shouldn’t be winning the races. She was good at bringing the energy back into the meet.”
The coaching staff, also recognizing that the meet was going poorly, rearranged the lineup. The initial lineup had most swimmers competing in off-events. For example, Liao had been given a rest from the 200-yd breaststroke, her best event which she frequently swims. Similarly, Hyde had a weekend off from the 200-yd butterfly and Weaver from the 100-yd freestyle. That all changed though and those swimmers were placed back into their strongest events.
The Bulldogs were a new team after the break. They won five successive races, pulling themselves within 14 points of the Huskies. Molly Albrecht ’13 won the 200-yd backstroke and set a new pool record in the 500-yd freestyle with a time of 4:56.33. Liao won her specialty, the 200-yd breaststroke, with a time of 2:18.08, while Hyde and Lucos took first and third respectively in the 100-yd butterfly.
Despite the slew of first places, the lack of depth — which the team of only 23 women has been struggling with all season — took its toll. In many events, the Huskies out-touched the second and third Bulldog swimmer, clinching an extra few points which ultimately determined the meet.
“It was the most frustrating meet I’ve been to,” Lucos said exasperatedly. “We should have won. It was completely plausible to beat them.”
While the Bulldogs walk away from this meet with another loss to their record, they recognize this was a good learning experience.
“This was a good wake up call,” head coach Cristina Teuscher said. “We had some great swims but it reminds us we need to stay focused and sharp for the next few weeks. We can never let up an inch.”
Their next dual meet is next Saturday against Brown at home at 1 p.m.