With the fall season/invites on the books, it’s time to reevaluate with the latest edition of our 2015-16 Women’s NCAA Power Rankings. The past 3-4 weeks have been our first real look at what each team might bring to the table in March. Some teams rest more than others for their fall invites, so we tried to hold back on knee-jerk reactions. However, fast swimming is fast swimming, and those who majorly impressed were at least rewarded a bit. There’s still a lot of swimming to be done, but for now, here’s our top 20 teams:
20. DUKE BLUE DEVILS (previous rank: N/R)
Three relays in the top 12 nationally, and Madeline Rusch is looking like a legitimate #1 sprinter for the Blue Devils.
19. UCLA BRUINS (previous rank: #20)
Surprisingly deep team, with a lot of potential NCAA qualifiers. The big question, though, is if they’ll score. Katie Grover (6th in the 200 fly nationally) and Linnea Mack (16th in the 100 back) are currently in the best spots to do that.
18. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (previous rank: N/R)
Boiler up! Purdue gets a much-deserved bump after a great ending to their fall that included three swimmers (Emily Fogle, Alexa Davis, and Kaersten Meitz) clocking two individual top 10 swims nationally.
17. NORTH CAROLINA TARHEELS (previous rank: #11)
After storming through the regular season, the Tarheels were “meh” at their Nike Cup Invite. UNC doesn’t have a single swimmer sitting in the top 20 of an NCAA event nationally, and just one relay currently sits in the top 16. That’s not atypical for UNC, which historically has been a late-breaking team come championship season, but the uncertainty leads to a slide in the rankings.
16. MISSOURI TIGERS (previous rank: #19)
Taking their fall invite results with a grain of salt (the Tigers typically go all-in), but can’t dismiss a team with two breaststrokers under 59 seconds in November. Along with Hannah Stevens, should be very competitive in the medleys.
15. FLORIDA GATORS (previous rank: #17)
Still no breaststroker, but overall, their fall invite was a step in the right direction. Plus, it’s tough to be outside of the top 15 with Natalie Hinds and Jessica Thielmann on your roster.
14. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (previous rank: #16)
Swam long course only at AT&T Winter Nationals, but Siobhan Haughey, Gillian Ryan, Ali Deloof, and Clara Smiddy all made at least one individual A-final.
13. INDIANA HOOSIERS (previous rank: #13)
Marie Chamberlain filling in admirably for Brooklynn Snodgrass. Her 51.87 last month in the 100 back was a lifetime best by over a second. Having Lilly King helps, too, and gives them a phenomenal front-half on the medley relay.
12. ARIZONA WILDCATS (previous rank: #13)
Traditionally puts a lot in their fall invites, but even with that, the Wildcats surpassed initial expectations. Freshman Annie Ochitwa was the most impressive, headlined by her ‘A’ cut in the 100 fly.
11. AUBURN TIGERS (previous rank: #10)
No super stars that fly off the page, but the Tigers have five relays in the top 16, and at least one legitimate NCAA scoring threat in almost every event.
10. NC STATE WOLFPACK (previous rank: #8)
Minimal depth, but are going to be sneaky good in the four sprint relays. Alexia Zevnik (top 20 in five events, top 8 in two) is looking like one of the country’s most improved swimmers.
9. USC TROJANS (previous rank: #12)
There they are! After wondering what was up down in SoCal, the Trojans impressed at the Texas Invite. Freshmen Kirsten Vose and Riley Scott look like they’ve shored up the breaststroke events–a big question mark coming into the season.
8. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (previous rank: #6)
Kelsi Worrell is typically the source of big news for the Cardinals, but freshman Mallory Comerford made some noise last month, as well, cutting three seconds of her best 200 free to get under the 1:45 barrier. She might be the final piece that Louisville needs to get over the hump and take an NCAA medley relay title, and gives the Cardinals more options to boost their 800 free relay – the team’s weakest at NCAA’s last season.
7. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (previous rank: #9)
Lauren Driscoll sighting! The senior crushed her previous best in the 400 IM, and now sits 5th nationally at 4:06.64. The swim of the meet, though, was freshman Madeline Banic dropping a 51.19 in the 100 fly.
6. TEXAS A&M AGGIES (previous rank: #7)
Took home the title at their home invite last month. Although Stanford primarily stole the show, the Aggies had some great swims of their own; Bethany Galat dropped a 4:04.06 in the 400 IM, good for 2nd in the country, and more than 5 seconds faster than she was at this point last season.
5. TEXAS LONGHORNS (previous rank: #5)
Looked great against USC and Arizona squads that came in ready to swim fast. Top 10 in all five relays, and Tasija Karosas and Madisyn Cox recorded NCAA individual ‘A’ cuts.
4. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (previous rank: #4)
Lights-out in November again, posting top-ranked times in 3 of 5 relays. The swimmers outside their big four (Courtney Bartholomew, Leah Smith, Laura Simon, Kaitlyn Jones) are going to be the key. The performances Ellen Thomas, Caitlin Cooper, and freshman Megan Moroney–particularly on freestyle relays–will be the difference-makers in their goal to come away with team hardware in March.
3. CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (previous rank: #1)
It’s tough to make a true comparison with where they were last year, given their primary fall meet was (long course) U.S. Nationals, but nonetheless, the Bears were far from impressive to close out the first half of the season. Last year, the Bears had 17 swims sitting in the top five going into the New Year. This season, they only have 5, including converted times.
2. STANFORD CARDINAL (previous rank: #3)
The IM events were huge weakness for Stanford last season. Ella Eastin made it clear that wouldn’t be the case while she’s around. Her 4:01 400 IM would have run away with NCAA’s last season.
1. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (previous rank: #2)
Nice to see Olivia Smoliga swimming better again; her nation-leading times in the 50 (21.82) and 100 freestyle (47.69) are faster than she was at any point last season. Hali Flickinger only seems to be getting better, too. Overall, the ‘Dawgs currently have more swims in the top 5 (12), the top 8 (15) and the top 16 (26) through the first half of the season than any other team. Cal was the better team on paper coming into the year, but until they show us more, Georgia will sit #1.
Come back next week for our men’s power rankings!