In what was arguably the most important contest of its season thus far, the women’s swimming team overcame both the University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth in a tri-meet this Saturday in Philadelphia. The Bulldogs, with 150.5 points, handily defeated the Big Green, who finished with 68 points, and just slipped by the Quakers, who finished with 149.5 points.

Yale was led by three two-win performances — all the work of freshmen. Chase Butler ’07 won the 200- and 100-yard freestyle events, with times of 1:54.07 and 53.40, respectively. Moira McCloskey ’07 won the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes, with times of 58.33 and 2:04.46, respectively. Cristina Hession ’07 repeated the performance she put up against Lehigh Jan. 17, winning the 1000- and 500-yard freestyles, with times of 10:14.53 and 5:02.08, respectively.

“I was very happy [with] how I swam in both the backstroke events,” McCloskey said. “I did what I needed to do to score for the team.”

While this weekend’s meet made their contribution quite clear, this was not the first meet that showcased the incredible depth and strength of the freshman class. Hession has been the team’s premier distance freestyle swimmer, and McCloskey has been winning backstroke races consistently all season. Butler has also swam well this winter, although her performances have been slightly overshadowed by Paige Harazin ’04, to whom Butler had come in second in all five individual races she had competed in since the break.

While Butler denies that the meet was a “breakthrough performance,” to use captain Amy Hancock’s ’04 assessment of the rookie’s performance, Butler said the victories were definitely a moral boost.

“Winning definitely gives you more confidence,” Butler said. “It makes it easier to see yourself as a winner.”

Also instrumental in the victory were the Eli divers, who yet again put up a dominating performance. For the second week in a row, Melanie Loftus ’05, Kathleen McKeon ’04 and Liz Foglesong ’07 swept the top three spots in the 1-meter competition. McKeon also claimed victory in the 3-meter event, repeating her performance of a week ago. Despite McKeon’s impressive individual performance, her comments reflect the importance of the Eli divers as a unit — a unit that has swept at least one of the two diving events at all but two of the dual meets this season.

“We were all happy with how we dove on one meter,” she said. “None of us had our best day on three meter.”

While the Bulldogs’ victory this weekend was extremely important, their upcoming meet poses the greatest challenge yet. The Elis (6-2, 3-1 EISL) will swim against both Harvard and Princeton in the much-anticipated annual HYP meet Jan. 30-Feb. 1. The Crimson is a perfect 6-0 on the season, and Princeton (7-1, 3-0 EISL) had gone unbeaten in 47 straight contests until losing to Pittsburgh Jan. 5. The two teams perennially take the top two spots in the Ivy League.

“HYPs are going to be very tough,” Hancock said. “However, we have girls that can win the majority of the events. You win the events, you win the meet. We think we can do really well this weekend.”