The women’s swimming and diving team has trained all year for the tomorrow’s meet: the Ivy League championships.

From Feb. 23-25, the Ancient Eight will face off in Cambridge, Mass. Yale is one of the only Ivy teams that has not rested for any other meet this season, and the Elis hope their two-week tapering period will shed seconds off their times this weekend. Yale’s goal is to place in the top three.

“We’ve been training so hard for so long, we’re all really excited to come together as a team,” Hayes Hyde ’12, who specializes in butterfly and freestyle, said.

This is the first meet this season the team will swim fully rested. The Bulldogs began tapering on Feb. 10, the day before the Brown meet. During taper, the team has lighter workouts. While a normal in-season practice consists of swimming about 5,500 yards, during tapering period the team swims only about 2,000-2,500 yards, Athena Liao ’12 said in an email. Swimmers also try to use the stairs less, walk less and generally minimize their physical activity outside of the pool.

The is to produce significantly improved times at Ivy League Championships, the only meet for which Yale’s team rests. In a 200-yard race, for example, swimmers may be able to drop anywhere from two to eight seconds off their time, Molly Albrecht ’13 said. Hayes Hyde said she expects to drop about six or seven seconds off of some of her race times.

The Bulldogs hope improved times will be enough to place them in the top three in the Ivy League. The team is projected to place somewhere between third and fifth, Albrecht said, adding that the team would not frown at a third place finish.

“Third is definitely within our reach,” team captain Rachel Rosenberg ’12 said. “It would take every member of the team to step up and perform to the top of their ability.”

The meet’s structure may help the Elis reach their goal. Teams are only allowed to bring their top 18 swimmers (divers count as a third of a spot) to Ivy League Championships. At regular dual meets, teams are allowed to bring their entire squad. A lack of man power is usually a disadvantage, Hyde said, because swimmers on small teams must compete in more events than swimmers on large teams. But since the cap on swimmers makes all teams the same size at Ivies, it helps “level the playing field” for smaller teams such as Yale’s, Hyde said.

The championship meet is also scored differently than a regular dual meet. The top 24 swimmers score points at the Ivies, while only the top five swimmers count towards a team’s score during the regular season. Since so many swimmers have the potential to score, it is not enough to place first, Albrecht said, swimmers in all positions matter.

While the main focus is on the team, there is also an individual component to the meet. If their times are fast enough, swimmers may qualify for the NCAA championships in mid March. Although swimmers can qualify throughout the year, qualification usually happens at the Ivy championships, since swimmers are rested and performing to the best of their abilities. Last year, no one on Yale’s women’s team qualified for NCAA tournament, and in 2010, only two swimmers qualified.

But this year, the team hopes individuals such as Alexandra Forrester ’13 will qualify, and that one of their relays will also make the cut, sending four more Yalies to the tournament, Hyde said. The team has the best chance to qualify in the 400-yard and 800-yard freestyle relays, she added.

The NCAA championships will take place March 15-17 in Auburn, Ala., after the NCAA zone diving meet from March 9 to 11 in Buffalo, N.Y.