2015 ACC Women’s Championship Fan Guide: American records on high alert, UVA chases 8-straight

2015 ACC Women’s Championships

  • Dates: Wednesday, Feb. 18 – Saturday, Feb. 21; Prelims 10AM/Finals 6PM (Eastern Time)
  • Location: Georgia Tech – Atlanta, GA
  • Defending Champion: Virginia (7x) (results)
  • Live Results
  • Live Video (if available)
  • Championship Central

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is fast becoming one of the nation’s most compelling conferences in women’s swimming & diving, swelling both in terms of depth and top-end talent.

The conference has the unique honor of perhaps boasting the nation’s best swimmer in each of the non-free strokes. Virginia’s Courtney Bartholomew currently leads the NCAA in the 100 back, Louisville’s Kelsi Worrell holds the same honor in the 100 fly and Notre Dame’s Emma Reaney is the reigning NCAA champ and American record-holder in the 200 breast.

That ‘Big 3’ of sorts should dominate most of the headlines coming into the meet, as all three have major records in their crosshairs.

Bartholomew leads a dominant Virginia team that is seeking its 8th consecutive ACC title. A great team a year ago, the Cavs brought in some big-name freshmen, and also have last year’s freshman sensation Leah Smith back to rule the distances, along with a roster that’s talented across the board.

But no Cav is currently hotter than Bartholomew, who is on the cusp of breaking a near-legendary record. Natalie Coughlin‘s 49.97 in the 100 back has stood as the American record for 13 years now, but Bartholomew rattled it with a 50.01 at her mid-season rest meet. If the junior can find just a few more hundredths, she’ll become just the second woman under 50 seconds in the event, a huge barrier to crack.

Worrell joins the conference for the first time this season, as Louisville moves over from the American Athletic Conference. The Cards were untouchable in the AAC last year, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare in a much more competitive lineup. Worrell herself will have the furthest stretch to an American record. Her 50.91 leads the NCAA, but the American record stands at 50.01, also set by Coughlin. Still, Worrell is a fast-riser and one of the nation’s more exciting swimmers, so an explosive taper isn’t out of the question. The ACC record of 51.78 seems almost a foregone conclusion, provided Worrell fully tapers for conference.

Then there’s Reaney, who stole the show last year with an American record at ACCs, then an even faster national mark at NCAAs. Reaney hasn’t showed her whole hand yet this year, but if she tapers down for ACCs once again, don’t be surprised if the Fighting Irish senior is holding some monster cards.

A deep conference that scores down to 24th place offers more teams and storylines than we can fully cover in a few paragraphs. The UNC Tar Heels are coming off an upset dual meet win over Virginia, and will look to challenge for the ACC title. That’ll be a tall order though – the Heels are deep, but don’t have any superstars of the caliber of Bartholomew or Smith.

NC State and Florida State have a lot in common: rising programs, sprint-based teams with some killer relays. Virginia Tech is sneaky good, and Duke’s last recruiting class was probably the best it’s ever pulled in.

Below we’ve got a quick run-down of the teams involved, plus some key races to watch – and of course, our conference picks are at the bottom.

Schedule

Wednesday:
Women’s 3-meter diving
200 Medley Relay
Men’s 1-meter diving
800 Free Relay

Thursday:
500 Free
200 IM
50 Free
Women’s 1-meter diving
200 Free Relay

Friday:
400 IM
100 Fly
200 Free
100 Breast
100 Back
Men’s 3-meter diving
400 Medley Relay

Saturday:
1650 Free
200 Back
100 Free
200 Breast
200 Fly
Women’s platform diving
Men’s platform diving
400 Free Relay

Stars

Boston College – Maureen Barron (junior sprinter), Abbi Kordell (sophomore breaststroker/IMer), Amanda Bieler (freshman freestyler) – In 2014 all of Boston College’s points came on relays, but they’ve got a young group who should benefit from last year’s experience.

Duke – Isabella Paez (freshman butterflyer/IMer), Maddie Rusch (sophomore sprinter/butterflyer), Jessie Sutherland (sophomore backstroker/butterflyer) – Duke brought in a monster recruiting class last offseason. Watch for their youngsters to really sizzle in the tough ACC.

Florida State – Chelsea Britt (sophomore flyer/backstroker), Kaitlyn Dressel (senior sprinter), Bianca Spinazzola (junior backstroker/flyer), Madison Jacobi (junior distance freestyler) – The Seminoles have been smashing school records like crazy under coach Frank Bradley. Britt narrowly missed two different ACC titles (100 fly/200 fly) as a freshman and should be a big factor in her second year.

Georgia Tech – Sarah Williford (junior distance freestyler), Ciara Ruiu (redshirt sophomore freestyler), Kira de Bruyn (freshman IMer) – A strong freshman class plus redshirt sophomore Ruiu has a new-look Georgia Tech team aiming to make a move in the conference race.

Louisville – Tanja Kylliainen (senior butterflyer/IMer), Kelsi Worrell (junior butterflyer/freestyler), Andee Cottrell (sophomore breaststroker/IMer), Abby Chin (senior distance/IMer), Andrea Kneppers (junior freestyler) – After blowing out the AAC last year, Louisville brings in a talented roster that includes perhaps the nation’s best 100 flyer in Worrell.

Miami – My Fridell (junior butterflyer), Kara McCormack (senior diver), Cameron Davis (sophomore distance freestyler), Cheyenne Cousineau (senior diver), Thea Vock (senior diver) – Boasting three of the conference’s best divers, Miami will try to keep pace in the pool with Fridell and Davis, who was a breakout freshman a year ago.

North Carolina – Danielle Siverling (senior freestyler), Emma Nunn (junior everything), Ally Hardesty (junior freestyler), Lauren Earp (junior freestyler) – A tough-as-nails squad built around defending ACC 200 free champ Siverling, UNC hopes to build off of their dual meet upset of Virginia earlier this year.

NC State – Alexia Zevnik (sophomore backstroker/freestyler), Riki Bonnema (junior sprinter), Ashlyn Koletic (junior sprinter), Natalie Labonge (sophomore freestyler/flyer) – One of the nation’s hottest sprint factories, NC State can put together some dangerous relays, and the Wolfpack seems to get stronger with every passing year.

Notre Dame – Emma Reaney (senior breaststroker/IMer), Katie Miller (sophomore IMer/backstroker), Courtney Whyte (senior butterflyer/backstroker), Bridget Casey (senior flyer) – Reaney is the fastest 200 breaststroker in American history, and Miller is the team’s up-and-coming star as longtime men’s coach Tim Welsh takes over for the departed Brian Barnes.

Pitt –  Amanda Richey (freshman distance freestyler), Kaleigh Ritter (junior distance freestyler), Kinga Cichowska (sophomore breaststroker/IMer), Tatjana Sarjeant (senior IMer) – Richey has had a breakout rookie season, and paired with the established Ritter, should give Pitt a big area of strength in the distance free races.

Virginia – Courtney Bartholomew (junior backstroker/IMer), Leah Smith (sophomore distance freestyler), Ellen Williamson (senior backstroker/butterflier/IMer), Ellen Thomas (sophomore freestyler/butterflyer), CeCe Williams (freshman freestyler)  – Bartholomew could be hunting the American 100 back record. Smith was the team’s star freshman a year ago, but Williams and Caitlin Cooper make this year’s rookie crew equally scary for the reigning champs.

Virginia Tech – Kaylea Arnett (senior diver), Klaudia Nazieblo (freshman everything), Weronika Paluszek (junior breaststroker/IMer), Fiona Donnely (sophomore butterflyer/IMer) –  Polish freshman Nazieblo adds more firepower to a H2Okie team that should be very competitive in the conference’s second tier.

Showdowns

The ACC is an interesting conference in that a number of its races shouldn’t be close at the top. The non-free strokes are almost written off entirely: Courtney Bartholomew should dominate the backstrokes, Emma Reaney shouldn’t be touched in either breaststroke and Kelsi Worrell should rule the butterflys.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that Reaney could be challenged by Virginia’s Laura Simon and Worrell should at least have a good 200 fly battle with Chelsea Britt of FSU and perhaps her teammate Tanja Kylliainen. But setting those 6 events aside, here are three great showdowns to look forward to:

200 IM: This should give us perhaps our only direct meeting between two of the three giants of the conference. Reaney was the 2014 champ with a 1:54.9, but Bartholomew blasted a huge 1:55.2 back in December and should have a real shot at the title. It all depends on which gal hits her taper best (or perhaps who is saving a rest for NCAAs). And don’t count out Bartholomew’s teammates Kaitlyn Jones and Ellen Williamson.

50 free/100 free: The sprints could be just wild this year, especially with Louisville now in the mix. Worrell is probably the narrow favorite in the 50, but with sprint-oriented programs like Florida State (Kaitlyn Dressel) and NC State (Riki Bonnema, Ashlyn Koletic, Natalie Labonge, Lauren Poli), the A final should be absolutely loaded. Virginia’s Ellen Thomas is a major factor, as is Cavalier rookie Caitlin Cooper.

200 free: One of the meet’s best races last year, the 200 free tees up another great showdown between Virginia’s Leah Smith and UNC’s Danielle Siverling. Siverling won the race by .36 seconds last year, and wants nothing more than a repeat feat in her final season in the ACC. But Smith looks tougher than ever as a sophomore, and currently holds the conference’s fastest time by over two seconds.

Selections

It’d be highly surprising for anyone to challenge Virginia this season. The Cavs hold the ACC’s top time in all 5 relays, and their medleys look like national title contenders, if not favorites. The great part of swimming is that anything can happen at taper time, but consider UVA heavy favorites to hoist the conference crown for the 8th-straight season.

The tricky part is slotting in Louisville, the conference’s lone new addition. The Cardinals would appear to have better top-end talent than North Carolina, and they’ve currently got a big edge in conference relay ranks. But the Tar Heels are deep and well-rounded, and they seem like the lead dogs to earn runner-up honors.

The Cards are also coming off of a “first-chance” meet that saw them break no less than 4 school records, two on the women’s side. It’ll be up to the team to stay on that roll through ACCs, but it’s becoming more and more of a trend for teams to get hot for a few weeks leading up to conference championships and just keep getting faster with every week. Will Louisville do the same? We’ll find out this week.

With that in mind, Louisville probably falls somewhere in the mix with NC State, Florida State and Virginia Tech. NC State has sprint freestylers in droves (one could almost call them a “wolfpack”), and only graduated two legs from its 2014 relays. Florida State is built much the same way, but was probably hurt more by graduation, losing conference 50 free/100 free champ Tiffany Oliver. Virginia Tech is centered much more on the stroke and IM races, which might limit their scoring potential in the double-point relay events.

Duke is a vastly-improved team from a year ago, so it’s tough to stick them right back in the #7-slot. But with how deep this conference is through the middle teams, Duke is probably still one or two more great recruiting classes away from challenging for a top-5 spot.

Notre Dame is hugely reliant on Reaney to carry them individually and on relays, and it’ll be interesting to see how the team responds after losing head coach Brian Barnes right at the start of the season.

  1. Virginia
  2. UNC
  3. Louisville
  4. NC State
  5. Florida State
  6. Virginia Tech
  7. Duke
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Miami
  10. Pitt
  11. Georgia Tech
  12. Boston College

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bobo gigi

I’d prefer to see her break the American record at NCAA’s.
Why she would be fully tapered this week? Keep the best for later. The race to win is in March.

MommaP

Correction….the MEET to win is in March!

samuel huntington

Her best time in long course is 1:01.7 – how can she not be faster there??

DJ

We saw Bartholomew swim at the UGA invitational in December, and she came up from her underwater past the buoys on every length. Her walls are her advantage, but not if she gets caught. Not really a factor in LCM to this point…guessing for that reason.

Sam I am

Funny, I was at the same meet and never saw it once. You do realize the rule is the farthest marker out and your chin must be up by that point.

But you might be right and every single official on deck was wrong.

coconut

the same officials who missed a -0.37 reaction time..

Dukefan

Excited to see what kind of times Hanna House throws down at ACCs!! Really excited for her and the rest of the Duke team!! Go Duke!!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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