Yale Athletics

Ready to get back into the pool and start its 2018–19 campaign, the Yale women’s swimming and diving team returns to the water this Saturday to compete against Brown in the first meet of the regular season.

In 2018, for the first time in two years, the Bulldogs sent their first member to the NCAA Division I National Swimming Championships. Yale dominated throughout the season, notching wins in every head-to-head matchup against Ancient Eight rivals. However, the Elis came up just short of replicating their success at the 2018 Ivy League Championships — finishing in second behind Harvard. In preparation for the conference title, the Elis began the season with several intramural and exhibition meets against neighboring universities. The Saturday matchup against the Bears is the team’s first real test of the year, albeit one that the Elis have traditionally won with ease.

“The team is looking very strong this year as the sophomores, juniors and seniors are incredibly motivated, hard-working and driven to deliver another Ivy League title to the school and simultaneously embody a strong team identity of powerful women,” Paulina Kaminski ’18, last year’s captain, said. “They have been doing an incredible job so far preparing themselves for the upcoming season in the pool, weight room and individual sessions.”

Yale graduated 10 seniors from last season’s roster, many of whom were instrumental to breaking its 20-year conference title drought. Swimmers Heidi VanderWel ’18, Maddy Zimmerman ’18 and Kaminski all had podium finishes at the Ancient Eight Championships and helped the Bulldogs set a number of relay records, including a pool record in the 200-yard medley relay.

VanderWel featured as the Bulldogs’ sole swimming representative at the National Championships last year.

“Definitely one of our goals is to send more people to the NCAAs this year,” Bella Hindley ’19 said. “The first years have done an incredible job at integrating so quickly and easily into the program, and we’re very excited to see what they will do in the upcoming weeks.”

The Elis will also miss diver McKenna Tennant ’18, who took second in the three-meter diving event at the NCAAs behind teammate Nikki Watters ’21 who claimed a first-place finish.

Taking the place of these athletes is a crop of first years hoping to match their excellence. In particular, diver Marisa Conner ’22, appears poised for success. With a Dutch National Championship in the one-meter dive and three other gold medals under her belt, Conner has the talent to lessen the impact of Tennant’s departure. Even though the team lost great leaders and competitors, current teammates agree that the team’s prospects look bright for the season ahead.

“We are ecstatic about our new members — not only for what they will bring to the pool, but what they will add to the classroom, campus and the strong camaraderie our team shares,” captain Sophie Pilkinton ’19 said.

Harvard and Princeton will continue to be the most formidable rivals for the Elis this year. The 2018 Ivy League Champions, the Crimson, will be motivated to defend its title as Harvard returns with its coaching staff and impressive roster. Meanwhile, the Tigers managed to take third last year, trailing Yale by 189.5 points. Despite coming in last place among the three schools, Princeton’s second-year coach Bret Lundgaard proved effective at improving the team’s record throughout the season; this season, the Tigers will likely be a ferocious competitor. Despite the rivalries, the Bulldogs are confident that they can triumph over both teams after defeating them handily at the Harvard-Yale-Princeton meet in February.

Returning to lead the team is head coach Jim Henry. During his first five seasons with the Bulldogs, Henry coached the women’s team from fourth place at the Ivy League Championships in 2013 to first place in 2017. His strong record bodes well for the team’s success in the 2018–2019 campaign.

In its season-opener against Brown last year, Yale defeated the Bears 201.5–93.5. The Bulldogs will look to match this level of performance against Brown and other Ivy League opponents in the fall. These events should prepare the Elis for meets such as the Ohio State Invitational later this month, where they will face, amongst others, Stanford and its squad of Olympians including four-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky.

The Bulldogs take on Brown at 5 p.m. in Providence, R.I., on Saturday, Nov. 02.

Alex Reedy | alex.reedy@yale.edu .