Key Losses: Ashley Specht (15th in 100 breast at NCAA’s, 2 NCAA points, 2 NCAA relays), Amy Cozad (17 NCAA diving points, 3rd on platform)
Key Additions: Olivia Barker (NV – fly), Bailey Pressey (Ind – fly), Gia Dalessandro (Ill – fly/IM), Vlaudia di Capua (NY – Free/Breast), Heather Hayes (Ind – breaststroke), Stephanie Marchuk (Ill – freestyle), Grace Padget (Ind – backstroke), Audrey Scott (Ind – freestyle)
2012-2013 Lookback: This Indiana women’s team had a very good year in 2013, especially at the Big Ten Championships where they finished as the runners-up and nabbed honors for freshman of the year (Brooklynn Snodgrass) and Swimmer of the Championship (Lindsay Vrooman), respectively.
There were some big-time pluses when they rolled on to NCAA’s. They only scored one 100 backstroker (Snodgrass – 3rd), but between a freshman and two sophomores, three were in the top 20 (Justine Ress was 19th and Allie Day was 20th, in addition to Snodgrass), and all three went season-bests.
Other groups did well too. Vrooman hit one best time at Big Tens (in the 500 – crushing the Big Ten Record with a 4:35), one best time at NCAA’s (the 1650 – 15:50.7), and scored in the top 5 in both in the big national meet. She had a great summer as well, knocking 13 seconds off of her lifetime best in the 800 long course free to go 8:33 and break the Indiana School Record. She was 2nd at the U.S. Open in the 400 free with a 4:10.0 (long course). She is a bona-fied collegiate distance star headed into next season.
Transfer That Counts: The weakness that showed the most during championship season was the sprint freestylers. The Hoosiers’ 400 free relay was 27th at NCAA’s, and the 200 free relay didn’t even qualify. Then-sophomore Cynthia Pammett broke 50 seconds in the 100 yard freestyle for the first time in her career at Big Tens, but that one piece wasn’t nearly enough for the kind of relay scoring the Hoosiers need to move into the top 10 nationally (though, she did have a great swim on the 400 medley relay anchor of 49.1 to help the Hoosiers finish 11th).
Next year, Pammett will have a big piece of support in that sprint freestyle group next season: 2012 Olympic Trials finalist Kait Flederbach. The former Arizona Wildcat isn’t quite as good in yards as she is in meters, but even with that considered, her 2013 times would’ve made a huge difference for Indiana. Flederbach was 22.3 in the 50 free (Indiana’s best, Sara Delay, was 22.9); She was also 48.8 in the 100 free (Indiana’s best Pammett was 49.8).
Middle of the Medley: With the front-leg and the back-leg of the medley relays now in good shape, at least for one year, the focus turns to the middle two legs. For an otherwise incredibly young team, the biggest graduation for this Indiana team was breaststroker Ashley Specht, who was 59.4 in the 100 yard breaststroke. The good news is that junior Bronwyn Pasloski had a breakout year headed into her senior season. She had the five fastest swims of her career last year in the 100 yard breaststroke, and knocked a full second off of her best time to land at 59.83.
So that leaves butterfly as the big hole for this team. Nobody flat-started better than 54.0 in the 100 yard fly on a flat-start. Freshman Haley Lips swam the butterfly leg on the medley relay and split an admirable 53.6 in finals at NCAA’s. That’s a good swim for her standards, but was the second-slowest of the finals: Lips is much better in the 200 fly than the 100.
Ress, aforementioned as a backstroker, is another solid butterflier, at 54.0 last year as a sophomore, but that’s not enough either to take these medleys to the next level.
The Big Recruits: And that is where Olivia Barker from the Sandpipers of Nevada comes in. Her best time in the 100 yard fly, from her junior year, is 53.15. Even with conservative starts, and not much in the way of improvement, that makes Indiana two A-final medley relays at NCAA’s, I would predict.
As a senior, Barker improved her 200 fly to 1:56.17, which would have scored at NCAA’s and would’ve been second in the Big Ten (behind only the now-graduated Shannon Draves of Ohio State).
Almost as significant is the signing of Gia Dalesandro from Illinois, who is a 53.4 in the 100 yard fly. Neither as of now will be any huge contributions beyond those butterfly events, but they will enter the season as #1 and #2 on the projected medley relay depth chart, which should serve as a huge boost to the Hoosiers’ chances at scoring all five relays, plus a little bit of a safety-net.
The Rest of the Class: Aside from Barker’s signing and Flederbach’s transfer, the Hoosiers’ class was a little thin. They had a few potential transfers in for visits, but none worked out aside from the aforementioned.
And so, Indiana’s incoming group won’t be hugely visible year one. Stephanie Marchuk is a future relay swimmer if she develops, having been 51.8 and 1:49.5 in the 100 and 200 yard freestyles. Beyond that, it’s going to be a wait-and-see game if any of the rest of the class will develop into scorers at the Big Ten level.
Other Returning Names to Watch: Taylor O’Brien, who was a freshman last year and a former Junior National Teamer, had a solid season alongside Vrooman in the distance events. She was best times in both the 500 (4:42.7) and the mile (16:10.2).
Canadian Brenna MacLean recovered from a tough sophomore campaign to finish 11th at NCAA’s in the 200 fly last year, though that was the only event she swam at the meet. She had an absolutely phenomenal summer in the event, knocking almost two seconds off of her lifetime best to go 2:10 in long course, but it looks like at the national level that 200 fly will be her big contribution to the team. The only other chance at her scoring at NCAA’s is probably in the 800 free relay; she had one really good relay split at the U.S. Open of 2:03.
We’re very intrigued to see what Dorina Szekeres does for her encore performance. At Big Tens last year, it wasn’t so much a surprise that she won, but popping off a 4:07.9 in the 400 IM earned her some buzz for the time. She went on to place 15th in the event at NCAA’s, and dropped a total of 6 seconds as a sophomore. She could be an NCAA scorer in the 200 back as well if she can wade through the quagmire that has developed in that event nationwide.
Madeline Maher had a good rookie campaign in the 400 IM too, placing 11th at Big Tens as a freshman (though note that only one swimmer ehead of her graduated, so if she wants to move up she’ll have to earn it). Stephanie Armstrong, who will be going into her senior year, scored in the B-Final at Big Tens in the 200 free individually and could fight for a spot on the 800 free relay at NCAA’s (though she’d have to fight Lips and Snodgrass, both of whom were good last year on that relay). She will also be a key member of the 400 free relay – in that 27th-place finish at NCAA’s last year, she had the fastest split of 49.5. All four swimmers return, and at least one of them will lose their spot to Flederbach, but that will only improve them maybe three seconds. They were four away from placing in the B Final at NCAA’s last year, so any work that Pammett and Armstrong can do will be a big help in reaching that goal.
Diving: Yes, Indiana’s longtime, legendary diving coach Dr. Jeff Huber retired. But shy of Huber himself, it would have been hard to find a better option to take over that role. The Hoosier’s hired Drew Johansen from Duke, who was the U.S. head Olympic diving coach in 2012, put two on that team, and between Abby Johnston and Nick McCrory coached divers to 4 NCAA Championships in the last four years. Again, Jeff Huber is a legend, but Johansen is about the best replacement there could have been.
To work with next year, he’ll have senior Kate Hillman, an NCAA qualifier who was within a few points of qualifying on both the 1 meter and the platform. This year’s Indiana diving group will still feel very different, though, as Hillman and fellow senior Cassidy Kahn are the only two divers listed on Indiana’s updated roster. For Kahn, who competed for Israel at the World University Games, this will be her 7th year at Indiana after battling an incredible number of injuries (head coach Ray Looze confirmed that she’s been cleared to compete this year – a truly extraordinary case).
There’s a little push to maybe bring in two more divers this year in Bloomington, but that’s a wait-and-see game.
Johansen will have to hit the recruiting trail hard this fall. At a legendary diving school like Indiana, and with his coaching credentials, despite a tiny bit of controversy early in his tenure, there’s a big opportunity for him to bring in some top-flight diving recruits.
Overall Outlook: This is a ‘window year’ for the Hoosiers. They’ve got a window of opportunity with a really good senior class, plus some really good underclassmen, to do some damage and possibly break Minnesota’s two-straight titles as Big Ten Champions.
At the National level, this team still isn’t quite deep enough in individual scorers to fight for a top 5 finish, but with virtually no holes on the roster, and a hope for a few diving points from Hillman, the Hoosiers are certainly lined up for a top 10 finish. Can they go after both, a Big Ten title and an NCAA top 10 (or better) performance? They’d have to hit things perfectly. Overall, though, it’s an exciting year for the Hoosiers, and the long-term goal will be to funnel that excitement into a much deeper recruiting class. Then, this program will have years of health to come.