The women’s swimming and diving team kicked off the season with a convincing 174–126 victory over Columbia this past Friday, winning 11 of the 16 events.

The dual meet was the first official test for the new coaching staff of head coach Cristina Teuscher, assistant coach Toni Pullman, and diving coach Chris Bergère. It was a positive start for the young team led by only three seniors, Kristin Darwin ’11, Ileana Lucos ’11, and captain Annie Killian ’11.

“I was happy. We have been talking a lot about racing and we proved we are headed in the right direction,” Killian said.

After a difficult start in the swimming events with losses in the 200-yard medley relay and 1,000-yard freestyle, the Bulldogs countered Columbia’s initial momentum with a one-two-three finish in the 200-yard freestyle. Molly Albrecht ’13 swam a strong final lap to win the event with a time of 1:51.48, followed closely by her teammates Ileana Lucos and Joan Weaver ’13.

The Bulldogs carried their momentum into the 100-yard backstroke, claiming first and second. Alex Forester ’13 won the event, touching way ahead of the field with a time of 56.64. Cynthia Tsay ’13 grabbed second in 59.04.

But the Bulldogs could not keep that momentum going into the 100-yard breaststroke. Without the dominating presence of Susan Kim ’10, who graduated last year after an undefeated season in the breaststroke events, the Bulldogs were unable to restrain Columbia in the event as the Lions took first, second and fourth. Athena Liao ’12 broke up the Lions’ charge, finishing third in 1:06.29, only .02 seconds out of second place.

With the meet tied at 56–56, Hayes Hyde ’12 had a strong performance in the 200-yard butterfly, winning the event in 2:03.81 to tip the score in the Bulldogs’ favor. Lucos finished strong in 2:05.37 to place second. Hyde also won the 200-yard individual medley.

Forester continued her dominant performances, decisively winning the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly. In the 50-yard freestyle, Erica Kao ’12 touched for third, leaving the Bulldogs with an 83–67 lead going into the 1-meter diving.

The divers had stellar performances on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards. Rachel Rosenberg ’12 won the 3-meter event, while Paige Meneses ’13 placed second. They switched places in the 1-meter as Meneses won the event with a score of 265.67, qualifying for NCAA Zones.

“I never thought I’d qualify for Zones in our first meet,” Meneses said. “It was such an exciting meet.”

The diving squad has had a particularly challenging past four weeks. After the unexpected departure of diving coach Ryan Moehnke only three days into the season, the seven women and men divers were left without a head coach and consistent practice routine. Chris Bergère, the new diving coach from the University of Michigan, was appointed at the end of last week, instructing the divers for the first time at the meet.

“Despite the tumultuous preseason, we stepped up and performed really well,” Meneses said. “Everyone — Coach Bergère and us divers — has a positive attitude. This is a huge time of change, but we are excited for what is to come.”

After the diving break, Albrecht continued her successful meet, winning the 200-yard backstroke and 500-yard freestyle by comfortable margins with times of 2:04.31 and 4:59.81, respectively. Weaver supported Albrecht in the 500-yard freestyle, taking second in 5:03.44.

“I’m happy with my performances and the determination and perseverance of the team,” Albrecht said. “What a great start to the season.”

The Bulldogs concluded the meet with a one-three finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay. At the halfway point of the race, Columbia led by half a second. With swimmers, divers and spectators cheering, the Bulldogs chased down the Lions and concluded the meet with two thrilling relay performances. The team of Weaver, Hyde, Kao, and Tsay won the event with a time of 3:33.28. The team of Lucos, Gabrielle Bunney ’14, Allison West ’14 and Michelle Huang ’14 placed third.

The dual meet came after six weeks of intense training. Practice officially started on Oct. 1.

“October was a hard month,” Killian said. “There were some rough times. However, we’re really serious about our training and supporting others. We had a good start and are headed in the right direction.”

Although the Bulldog squad is the smallest swimming and diving team in the Ivy League this year, it is determined to prove its position as one of the best teams. Last year the team had a 5–2 dual meet record against its Ivy League opponents. At the Ivy League Championships, the team placed third, behind first place by less than 120 points.

“We have an underdog position this year. We can use that to our advantage,” Killian said. “We are aiming for a new level of success. It’s about creating something for where we as a team are going.”

The Bulldogs race again this upcoming weekend at the Boston Terrier Invitational. Swimmers will have the opportunity to race in morning preliminaries and if they qualify, they can compete at finals in the evening. Killian said this preliminary-final format is good practice for the Ivy League Championships, which follow the same format.