2013-2014 NCAA Women’s College Preview: #9 Texas Hurt by Loss of Sogar, Still a Force to be Reckoned With

Key Losses: Laura Sogar (NCAA Champion in 200 Breast, 6th place in 100 Breaststroke, 2 NCAA Relays), Kelsey Amundsen (4 NCAA Relays), Bethany Adams (1 NCAA Relay), Shelby Cullinan (9th place Platform Diving at NCAAs)

Key Additions: Samantha Bromberg (Diving), Tasija Karosas (FL – Back), Madisyn Cox (TX – IM/Breaststroke), Brynne Wong (CA-Sprint Free), Makayla Markey (CA-Sprint Free/Fly), Cheyenne Low (CA-Backstroke, Rebecca Baxley (TX- Backstroke), Vanessa Duran (TX-IM/Breast), Smacker Miles (FL-IM/Fly)

2012-2013 Lookback: The Longhorns had a fairly successful 2012-2013 campaign that was highlighted by Laura Sogar’s tremendous 200 breaststroke victory at NCAA’s on the last day of competition.  Despite having amassed 186 points at last year’s NCAA Championships, Texas head coach Carol Capitani was quoted as saying that “we wish we were  battling for a higher place, but I’m really happy with where we ended up”.  This is likely attributed to the fact that Texas performed best on Day 3 of the Championships, since they scored 71 points on the last day of competition (65 on Day 1, 50 on Day 2).  Junior Sarah Denninghoff took 8th in the 200 backstroke (1:53.72) and 10th in the 100 backstroke (51.86) at NCAA’s, but missed both of her lifetime bests from the year before. Junior Samantha Tucker took 15th in the 200 freestyle (1:46.26) but added over one-and-a-half seconds from her Big 12 time of 1:44.74.  Junior Ellen Lobb took 15th in the 50 freestyle (22.35) and junior diver Maren Taylor was 7th in the 1-meter final and 10th in the platform final.  The team had performed admirably at the Big 12 Championships, where they took the team title overall convincingly with 1,051 team points (West Virginia was 2nd with 576).   Freshman Meghan Houston joined Taylor to share Outstanding Diver of the Meet honors, while Carol Capitani and Matt Scoggin won Swim Coach and Dive Coach of the meet honors respectively.

A Big Senior Class: Texas graduated key seniors like Sogar and Amundsen last year, but even this does not compare with the strength of the Texas senior class this upcoming year. The Longhorns will have 8 seniors, including Tucker, Deninghoff, Lobb, junior Alexandra Hooper, and Maren Taylor. It will be interesting to see how these ladies perform in their final collegiate season.  Of course, this also means that coach Capitani needed to build a strong and deep recruiting class to compensate for the impending losses the team will suffer following the graduation of their seniors. Deninghoff, Lobb, Tucker, and Hooper will provide much of the firepower for the Longhorns in multiple relays, and especially in the 400 freestyle relay, which could arguably be Texas’ strongest one.  At last year’s NCAA’s, this class accounted for 44 out of the 86 total points that Texas scored in individual events. Keep in mind that Laura Sogar scored 33 of the remaining 42 by herself, and that then-senior diver Shelby Cullinan scored the other 9 by winning the platform diving consolation final.  Therefore, this senior class also represents the only returning scorers for Texas, and we can expect them to have big expectations for improvement in their final year.

Diving, Diving, and more Diving: If there’s one thing that Texas can truly look forward to next year on the women’s side, it’s diving. Samantha “Murphy” Bromberg from Bexley, OH is one of the best incoming freshmen divers in the country, and she is coming off a tremendous summer season, where she won both the individual platform and synchronized platform events at the AT&T National Diving Championships in Iowa City.  Furthermore, Bromberg also placed 7th in the synchronized platform event at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain last month. Senior Maren Taylor notched 3rd place in the 3-meter final at the National Championships, and together, these two divers will help Texas tremendously when it comes to scoring big points at NCAAs. Additionally, if National Teamer, Meghan Houston, can continue to improve after her phenomenal freshman year, the Longhorns may be able to mold one of the most formidable diving lineups in the country.

Best of the Rest: Aside from Bromberg, none of Texas’ incoming freshmen are superstars in their own right; however, Coach Capitani can rest assured knowing that she has added some significant depth to her roster. Tasija Karosas comes into her freshman year with best times of 53.2 and 1:55.4 in the backstrokes, which in years past would have been poised to score points immediately at the NCAA level. However, with the emergence of superstar backstrokers like Rachel Bootsma, Missy Franklin, and Elizabeth Pelton, it will be much more difficult to get a second swim at NCAA’s with times like those.  However, Karosas, Low (55.5 100 backstroke), and Baxley (55.49 100 backstroke) will get plenty of leadership from senior Sarah Denninghoff as she enters her senior year.  As for Brynne Wong, her 22.94 in the 50 free is a very strong time, and she will be able to join Ellen Lobb to immediately contribute to the sprint relays. It took a 22.39 to score in the 50 freestyle at NCAA’s last year, so if she can drop another six-tenths of a second off her time, we may get to see her contend for some points at the national level.  She also can go a 54 low in the 100 butterfly, and the Longhorns could certainly use her in the butterfly since they did not score any points in the 100 or 200 butterfly events at last year’s NCAA’s.  Madisyn Cox is a very versatile swimmer who will immediately contribute in the 200 IM (1:59.3), but also can contribute in the other 3 strokes as well.  She has bests of 1:01.8 and 2:14.1 in the breaststrokes, 1:58.5 in the 200 backstroke, and a 1:48.9 in the 200 freestyle.

Other Returning Names to Watch Out For: Junior Kelsey Leneave just missed out on scoring last year in the 1650 with her lifetime best time of 16:10.65 (18th place). She is also very capable in the 200 and 500 freestyles as well (1:45.8, 4:42.8). Her training partner, junior Kaitlin Pawlowicz was not far behind with a 16:16.85, and both distance swimmers may be ready to take the next big step at the national level. Junior Grechen Jaques could have scored points at NCAA’s in the 100 breaststroke had she matched her 59.64 best time from the Big 12 Championships.  if she can save her best for NCAAs next year, she could offset some of the points that the Longhorns lose from Sogar’s graduation.  In the 200, junior Skylar Smith was a 2:12.7 last March, and if she can improve by a few seconds, she might be able to earn herself a second swim as well. Additionally, Lily Moldenhauer, the former National Public High School Record holder in the 100 backstroker, still has plenty of potential in the sprint backstroke events.  Her best times are 24.35 and 52.25 in the 50 and 100 backstrokes.

Overall Outlook: The Longhorns have a very well-balanced team and have the potential of making waves at the 2014 NCAA Championships.  Though they are hampered by the loss of some big seniors from last year, it appears that the new senior class is ready to lead the ladies in the upcoming year.  From our own rankings, the Longhorns have the 11th best recruiting class for the 2013-2014 season, but Coach Carol Capitani has plenty to look forward to before next year’s championships at the University of Minnesota. Though they will have to compete with powerhouses like Cal and Georgia next year, there is no reason that Texas cannot still provide some strong showings at the end of next season, and compete for a top-5 team finish.

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Dan O

Matt Scoggin, not ScRoggin.!

About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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