Despite some strong individual performances, the men’s swimming and diving team opened the 2010-2011 season with a 177–122 loss to the Columbia Lions on Saturday at home.

Guided by newly-appointed head coach Tim Wise, assistant coach Kevin Norman, and diving coach Chris Bergère, the team was determined to reverse last year’s agonizing two-point loss to Columbia. Last season, the meet came down to the 400-yd freestyle relay at the end of the meet in which the Bulldogs needed a first and third place finish for the win. Despite a first place Eli effort, Columbia took the next two places to win the meet. But there would be no such dramatics this year as Yale fell behind early.

The Bulldogs and Lions battled back and forth in the first three events of the meet. In the 3-mtr diving event, the Bulldogs’ charge was lead by Tyler Pramer ’14 and Eric Olson ’11, who finished second and third, respectively. The first swimming event, the 200-yd medley relay, saw the team of Mike Dominski ’13, Zak Murez ’11, Goksu Bicer ’12 and captain Kyle Veatch ’11 touching for second with a time of 1:33.58. Jason Choi ’11, Chris Luu ’12, Matt Boone ’12 and Pat Killian ’14 snuck in for third in 1:35.66.

The next event, the 1000-yd freestyle, was the Bulldog’s most successful event of the meet. Matt Lee ’11 lead the field throughout the race, ultimately winning with a time of 9:33.45, over seven seconds faster than his winning time from last year’s meet against Columbia.

“I’m happy with my swim and coming out with the win,” Lee said. “It was a good time to start the season with.”

At the half way point of the 40-lap race, a heated battle for second place between Mikey Bogese ’14 and Lion sophomore Sean MacKenzie raged on. Over the course of the next 20 laps, Bogese inched ahead of MacKenzie to touch second with a time of 9:35.56. West Cuthbert ’14 finished fourth in 9:44.72.

“For their first collegiate meet, Mikey and West had great swims,” head coach Tim Wise said. “They came here as accomplished swimmers and did what was expected of them.”

After that race, the Bulldogs held a narrow 28-27 lead. But that advantage disappeared when the Lions won a close 200-yd freestyle race, tipping the score in their favor. Bicer jumped to an early lead in the event, but could not hold off Columbia’s Eric Traub, who slipped his hand onto the wall first, robbing Bicer of the victory. Ed Becker ’14 and Danny Clarke ’14 finished fourth and sixth respectively for the Bulldogs.

“We lost momentum in the 200 freestyle,” Wise explained. “It was a huge win for Columbia.”

The Bulldogs were unable to climb back to the top, losing eight successive races. The scoring of the meet highly favored winning events, allocating nine points to first, four to second, three to third, and so forth through fifth place. By winning an event, a team ensures it outscores the other team in that particular contest. On Saturday, there were numerous close races, most of which went in the Lions’ favor.

“The final score doesn’t reflect how close the meet really was,” Veatch said. “Each touch-out has a huge swing that would have helped our points and team spirit and morale.”

After a close loss in the 100-yd breaststroke, Luu went on to win the 200-yd breaststroke in a time of 2:08.93. Danny McDermott ’14 had a strong first meet as a Bulldog, touching third in the 100-yd and 200-yd breaststroke, half a second off of first place in both races.

The 500-yd freestyle proved to be another close race. After going stroke-for-stroke for 20 laps with Lions’ swimmer MacKenzie, Lee could not get his hand to the wall fast enough, finishing second in a time of 4:39.70. Still recovering from the 1000-yd freestyle, Bogese and Cuthbert placed fourth and fifth respectively.

Jared Lovett ’13 had the third win for the Bulldogs, touching first in the 200-yd individual medley in 1:55.42.

Lovett also placed second in the 200-yd backstroke. Dominski and Choi finished third and fifth respectively to round out the scoring for Yale in the event.

Veatch, who placed second behind Ivy League Champion Adam Powell of Columbia in the 50-yd and 100-yd freestyle, was disappointed with the outcome of the meet but is looking forward to the rest of the season with optimism.

“This was our first meet so we were still figuring things out,” Veatch said. “We’re going to get back into the pool and focus on what we need to do as individuals and as a team. Our goal is to get third in the league at Ivies.”

Wise echoed Veatch’s sentiments.

“If the breaks went our way, the dynamics of the meet would have been drastically different,” he said. “We’ve got to learn from this meet. But we’re close — the enthusiasm is good, the energy is good.”

Up next for the Bulldogs is the Terrier Invitational in Boston this weekend.