After winning all but one of its conference dual meets, the 2016–17 Yale men’s swimming and diving team seemed poised to contend for the Ivy League Championships last February. But the Bulldogs finished a disappointing fourth of seven teams at the championship meet.

However, after prevailing in its two preseason scrimmages, Yale is poised for another dominant regular season in the conference this year. With Jim Henry taking over as the team’s new head coach and the diving squad much improved, the Bulldogs look to contend for their first conference title since 1993.

“The transition has been smooth and filled with positive experiences and growth,” Henry said. “I am pleased with the progress and improvement the team has made since the official start of season Oct. 1. The men have been open to new ideas, engaged in the process and positive.”

Henry, who has served as head coach of the women’s swimming and diving team since 2013, was named head coach of the men’s team last May after former head coach Tim Wise resigned in April. Wise led the Bulldogs for seven seasons.

In just his fourth year in charge of the women’s team, Henry captured the Ivy League title last season for the first time since 1997. Henry will now take the helm of both teams.

According to Aaron Greenberg ’18, who qualified for the 2017 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships and placed 24th nationally in the 50-yard freestyle, the men’s team has practiced more often with the women’s team under the joint leadership of Henry and his three associate and assistant coaches.

“The morale on the team is the best that it’s been since I got here to Yale,” Greenberg said. “That’s really indicative of how well the transition has gone so far with the new coach. … Jim is not spread thin whatsoever. He cares incredibly about both teams and both teams succeeding. If anything, he’s putting more work into it to make sure both teams are getting 100 percent out.”

Under the leadership of the new head coach, the Eli team sets its sight on February’s Ivy League Championships. According to team captain Dirk Bell ’18, the Bulldogs’ fourth-place performance at the championships last year was the low point of the season, marking their sixth fourth-place finish in the last seven years. Bell said he believes the Ivy title is within reach this year if the team continues to swim as well as it has been in training.

Greenberg and Kei Hyogo ’18, both of whom competed in the NCAA Championships last March, return for the 2017–18 campaign, as does Adrian Lin ’19, who set the team record in the 200-yard freestyle last season.

In addition to the change in coaching leadership, the team welcomed two first-year divers this season instead of the usual one recruit. According to head diving coach Chris Bergere, who joined the program in 2010, the team usually can recruit only one diver each admissions cycle. Last year, however, there were more high-ranked divers interested in coming to Yale, and last year’s coaching team made the decision to recruit two.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how my freshmen compete during the year,” Bergere said. “Diving high school and club is … different than diving Division I men’s college. So I’m really looking forward to exposing them to the competition of Division I diving.”

Yale opened up the year with a preseason exhibition meet against UConn on Oct. 13, followed by another against West Point on Oct. 20. According to swimmer Tristan Furnary ’20, the Yale divers impressed against West Point. The Bulldogs swept the top three places in the diving portion of the meet.

The victory over West Point marked an improvement from last year’s narrow preseason loss to the Black Knights, improving morale ahead of the season. Although the results of the two preseason races were unofficial and will not count in any team’s standing, the Bulldogs won in both and are looking to make an energetic start to the season.

“That’s what scrimmages are for, to get everyone back in the racing mentality and back into being critical of their races and seeing where they can improve,” Furnary said. “[West Point is] definitely the meet that people are going to use more as a benchmark of where we are or … a jumping off point for the rest of the season because we swam so well.”

The Elis will open their 2017–18 campaign this weekend with a meet against Brown. On the diving front, Bergere expects good competition from the Bears, as they have added a couple of talented divers to their roster. Last season, the Bulldogs triumphed 177.5–122.5 over tight competition from the Bears after many neck-and-neck races.

The Bulldogs will host Brown at Robert J. H. Kiphuth Exhibition Pool on Saturday, with competition set to begin at 3 p.m.

Selena Cho | soomin.cho@yale.edu