Still undefeated and tied atop the Ancient Eight regular-season standings with rival Harvard, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team takes to the pool this Friday and Saturday with history on the line for the second consecutive season.
This weekend’s two-day Harvard-Yale-Princeton matchup offers a chance for the Bulldogs, recipients of seven votes in the most recent CSCAA national coaches poll, to complete their second straight undefeated regular season. It also stands as an opportunity for the Elis to establish a winning streak against their two fiercest rivals; after a 19-year losing skid against the Tigers and the Crimson, Yale surged to victory last January with 173.5–126.5 and 167–133 against Princeton and Harvard, respectively, to punctuate its 7–0 Ivy League record in dramatic fashion.
“HYP last year was an incredible experience and gave me an idea of what the atmosphere at Ivies would be like,” Bella Hindley ’19 said. “Despite the fact that it is just another dual meet, it is a lot more intense as in some ways it is an indicator for what each team can do the following week and a half at Ivies. In this way, it is extremely important in building momentum and confidence leading up to the Ivy League Championships.”
The Bulldogs have dominated their Ivy League competition leading up to this point, posting a 5-–0 dual meet record while capturing 73 percent of available points. The Crimson and Tigers, however, represent an elevated challenge over other Ancient Eight opponents. Similar to Yale’s demolition of its adversaries, Princeton has earned 64 percent of possible points, while Harvard has earned 63 percent.
While the Bulldogs’ victory over Princeton and Harvard last season was historically impressive, this year’s Elis squad should fair even better if its results thus far are any indication. The only key departure in terms of point scoring from last season’s roster was distance swimmer Eva Fabian ’16, who registered second-place finishes in both the 1000- and 500-yard freestyle events in the HYP competition. Since Fabian’s graduation, Yale has added swimmers Cha O’Leary ’20 and Destiny Nelson ’19 to the roster, two underclassmen who have established themselves as difference-makers in the breaststroke and medley competitions — areas in which the Elis showed room for improvement in last season’s HYP meet.
“Our freshman class is extremely strong [this year] and has contributed so much to our team, both in the pool and out,” Kina Zhou ’17 said. “Last year, a lot of us went into the HYP meet not realizing that we had the potential to win. Even the news articles that came out afterwards described our win as an ‘upset.’ This year, we have much more confidence going in than we did last year, but Harvard and Princeton aren’t going to let us win without a fight.”
Yale’s confidence entering the weekend is not unfounded given its season of dominance. Though Harvard and Princeton have both outperformed their Ivy League opponents by considerable margins, Yale holds an advantage over both schools on paper: The Bulldogs possess the top time in 16 of the 20 events that all three teams have swam this season. Harvard owns the next four, and Princeton looks to be overmatched with zero.
While Yale owns the majority of top times, several intriguing individual matchups exist between Yale and Harvard. Heidi VanderWel ’18 and Harvard’s Kristina Li are separated by only 11 tenths of a second in the 100-yard backstroke. Lili Margitai ’20 and Maddie Zimmerman ’18 narrowly trail Harvard’s Brittany Usinger and Miki Dahlke in the 100-yard butterfly, an event where all four swimmers own NCAA B qualifying times.
In the diving portion of the two-day event, Yale’s divers should take control with their advantages in both experience and finesse. Last season, diver Lilybet MacRae ’17 captured gold medals in both the one-meter and three-meter iterations. MacRae and Talbott Paulsen ’19 have posted the same league-high mark in the one-meter event, while Paulsen stands alone atop the three-meter standings entering the weekend. Paulsen and MacRae’s tied score of 316.65 leads the closest Harvard competitor by 28.95 points in the one-meter, and Paulsen’s 330.75 in the three-meter bests Harvard’s top score by 29.35 points.
“Of course want to beat them,” Paulsen said. “Both teams have really good divers — it’s definitely going to be a challenge.”
The HYP meet begins at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, and continues at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday in the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool at Payne Whitney Gym.