2021-2022 NCAA Women’s Power Rankings: First Edition

As in previous years, SwimSwam’s Power Rankings are somewhere between the CSCAA-style dual meet rankings and a pure prediction of NCAA finish order.  SwimSwam’s rankings take into account how a team looks at the moment, while keeping the end of the season in mind through things like a team’s previous trajectory and NCAA scoring potential.  These rankings are by nature subjective, and a jumping-off point for discussion.  If you disagree with any team’s ranking, feel free to make your case in our comments section.

Braden Keith, Spencer Penland, Andrew Mering and Robert Gibbs contributed to this report.

And we’re back.

After the truncated 2020-21 NCAA season that didn’t see any meets get going until January, the 2021-22 campaign is already in full swing with the majority of teams having raced multiple times, showing us a glimpse of what they’ve got this year.

While we’re in the final stages of our 2021-2022 College Swimming Previews, taking a deep dive into the top 12 teams from last season’s NCAA Championships, the first edition of our power rankings are a more up-to-date look at how we rank the top 20 programs nationally in the “preseason”—primarily based on roster outlook for the season, but a little weight based on how teams have swum thus far.

Without further ado, here are our women’s NCAA power rankings, along with the team’s standing in our final 2020-2021 power ranks:

Note: This article has been edited since it was first published, since our initial rankings were based on a writer accidentally leaving Alabama completely off his ballot. That adjustment has moved Alabama from #14 to #8, and we’ve adjusted the rankings accordingly.

Honorable Mentions: Florida State Seminoles, Miami Hurricanes, Minnesota Golden Gophers

#25: Notre Dame Fighting Irish + (2021 NCAA Rank: N/A)

After only scoring 12 points at NCAAs last season, Notre Dame lands in the top 25 thanks in part to the 14th-ranked recruiting class. Coleen Gillilan started off strong against Pitt and Cleveland State, and freshman Madelyn Christman looks like she’s the real deal. -JS

#24: Auburn Tigers + (2021 NCAA Rank: N/A)

Positive start to the season with a decisive win over FSU. Ellie Waldrep leading a strong start for the first-years. The Auburn women had a lot of NCAA qualifiers last year, just none who came away with points. Ryan Wochomurka had a ton of success with women at Houston, so he should be able to get a few over that hump this year. -JS

#23: Arizona State Sun Devils + (2021 NCAA Rank: N/A)

Emma Nordin will finally get a shot at a national title two years after finishing with the top time in the division in the 500 free. -AM

#22: Purdue Boilermakers -2 (2021 NCAA Rank: 20)

56 returning diving points puts Purdue in this spot. -AM

#21: Virginia Tech H2okies – (2021 NCAA Rank: 21)

Emma Atkinson looking to build off breakout freshman season. -JS

#20: Texas A&M Aggies -6 (2021 NCAA Rank: 14)

Maybe humbled a bit after their dual with Texas. Chloe Stepanek needs help at the top. -JS

#19: Missouri Tigers -1 (2021 NCAA Rank: 18)

Already three meets under their belt. Sarah Thompson is on fire. -JS

#18: Northwestern Wildcats -2 (2021 NCAA Rank: 16)

Their top NCAA scorers last season, Madeline Smith and Hannah Brunzell, had a good opening showing against Indiana. Ashley Strouse could push them to the next level. -JS

#17: USC Trojans +5 (2021 NCAA Rank: 22)

The Trojans had a very good weekend racing lesser competition at home. Laticia-Leigh Transom hitting 48.4/1:43.9 freestyles this early is something to keep an eye on. Kaitlyn Dobler looks good and Marlene Kahler appears to have adjusted to yards well. -JS

#16: Wisconsin Badgers +3 (2021 NCAA Rank: 19)

The youth movement continues as reigning 200 back national champ Bacon is joined by a pair of elite freshmen in Paige McKenna and Mackenzie McConagha-JS

#15: UNC Tar Heels -3 (2021 NCAA Rank: 12)

An elite diver, solid relay potential, a few potential individual scorers. I have UNC ranked at about their ceiling, but this team looks like the archetype of a team that finishes in the 11-20 range. -AM

#14: Indiana Hoosiers +1 (2021 NCAA Rank: 15)

Noelle Peplowski and Mac Looze have been good early. Mariah Denigan getting some wins against Northwestern should be a nice confidence booster. -JS

#13: Florida Gators +4 (2021 NCAA Rank: 17)

The Gators cruised to an early-season win over FAU and haven’t shown much of their hand yet. A low-key solid recruiting class should pay dividends down the road, especially with Russian freestyler Ekaterina Nikonova expected to join the team for the second semester. –JS

#12: Kentucky Wildcats -3 (2021 NCAA Rank: 9)

After breaking out to win the school’s first-ever SEC title last season, Kentucky has no major losses to report and holds close to their NCAA placing for now. –JS

#11: Ohio State Buckeyes -4 (2021 NCAA Rank: 7)

Another squad that has yet to dive into action, Ohio State is getting 33 individual NCAA points from fifth-year returnees Kristen Romano and Katie Trace, which gives the team a fighting chance to improve on their seventh-place showing from March. -JS

#10: Louisville Cardinals +3 (2021 NCAA Rank: 13)

A big jump for a team that was 13th at NCAAs. The Cards gave Michigan a good run at the SMU Classic, and getting Arina Openysheva back in the fold is big. -JS

#9: Georgia Bulldogs -1 (2021 NCAA Rank: 8)

The Dawgs don’t get underway until Friday, so it makes sense they slot very near the spot they finished at NCAAs last season. Losing Courtney Harnish is tough, but they’ve kept the majority of their top performers and Peyton Palsha comes over from Arkansas to fill the distance void. -JS

#8: Alabama Crimson Tide -3 (2021 NCAA Rank: 5)

This team finished 5th last year and return every single point including all 4 members of their title-winning 400 free relay. Their problem is that Cal and Texas also lost very little with 5th-year returners and Alabama’s recruiting class was unranked. -AM

#7: Tennessee Volunteers +3 (2021 NCAA Rank: 10)

A nice mix of transfers and incoming freshmen keep the Vols near the top of the heap. Mona McSharry and first-year Sara Stotler in particular have gotten off to a good start. -JS

#6: Michigan Wolverines – (2021 NCAA Rank: 6)

Michigan looked great at the SMU classic. Maggie MacNeil is obviously one of the best swimmers in the NCAA today, but behind her, freshmen Letitia Sim and Lindsay Flynn are looking like the real deal. On top of that, Michigan returns all 2021 NCAA scorers except Sierra Schmidt, although Schmidt did score 31 points last year. -SP

#5: Cal Golden Bears -1 (2021 NCAA Rank: 4)

The early season performances from Ivey are encouraging. She’s very much their go-to swimmer come NCAAs, and seeing her already firing is a positive sign. Rajic and Stadden look solid so far, and I think the first-years will make more of an impact than some think. -JS

#4: Texas Longhorns -1 (2021 NCAA Rank: 3)

While Texas may not have been truly tested yet, Erica Sullivan has started off strong and the fifth-year return of Evie Pfeifer is big. Kelly Pash has come out firing. -JS

#3: NC State Wolfpack -1 (2021 NCAA Rank: 2)

Katharine BerkoffSophie HanssonKate Moore and Kylee Alons have all started well. Some of their lesser-known swimmers came through in the Saturday dual with Tennessee. -JS

#2: Stanford Cardinal +7 (2021 NCAA Rank: 9)

Stanford looked flat against Utah. With their talent, we have to believe they’re still the second-best team in the country, but nothing so far would lead me to believe they can beat Virginia. -BK

#1: Virginia Cavaliers – (2021 NCAA Rank: 1)

Not much needs to be said—if you’ve been following the first few weekends that Virginia’s been competing, they’ve been near-flawless. Gretchen Walsh in particular has really impressed. -JS

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2 years ago

We will have a better sense after fall invite season concludes over the next 4-6 weeks.

2 years ago

Wondering if the addition of Texas freshman Olympian diver, Hailey Hernandez, was missed in these rankings. She’ll easily get 30-40 new points this year for Texas.

2 years ago

i wonder how many teams are saved by their 5th years… so many of them mentioned.

2 years ago

Dropping NC State to #3 and putting Stanford at #2 makes absolutely no sense reading the team summaries

2 years ago

i am really hoping that Stanford v Utah meet was just extra slow and they at least put up a real challenge to UVA

Reply to  jeff
2 years ago

I think USC will surprise many!!

So confused
Reply to  jeff
2 years ago

It absolutely was incredibly slow. They will crush UVA. I feel confident!

Reply to  So confused
2 years ago

Writing it down ‘crush UVA’.

Reply to  So confused
1 year ago

LMAO. Couldnt even crush texas

Reply to  jeff
2 years ago

Don’t worry. The more slow meets they have, the faster they’ll move to #1 in the rankings

2 years ago

hoosiers should be top 10

Samuel Huntington
2 years ago

USC has gotten significantly better and drops.
Bama stays the same and drops a ton.

Authors – care to explain your reasoning?

Reply to  Samuel Huntington
2 years ago

One voter didn’t include Alabama in their top 25. Since we average together the 5 votes…that hits pretty hard. Rest of the voters had Alabama in the 6-7 range. I suspect that in the next round, they’ll rise.

USC – I’ve updated to be as a comparison to 2021 NCAAs rather than 2021 Final Power Rankings (which were done before NCAAs). So, USC has actually risen by 5 spots relative to their actual NCAA finish. Hoping that makes a little more sense. I think USC will be better than last year. But…I also think that between suiting and maybe a little bit of a disrupted schedule after the Kipp moves, they might have been more rested for a mid-October invite… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

If a voter didn’t include Alabama on their top 25, they either made a mistake and forgot to include them, or they’re a moron.

Say's Phoebe
Reply to  oxyswim
2 years ago

I would look at it as a mistake, and I would suggest asking the voter to redo their ballot and then edit the article.

If everyone else sees Alabama as 6-7, and the mystery voter agrees, editing would leave more accurate impressions for Georgia, Louisville, Ohio State, Kentucky, Florida and Indiana, and perhaps Tennessee and Michigan.

All these teams are one spot higher than Swimswam really thinks, right?

Reply to  Say's Phoebe
2 years ago

I am the mystery writer. I wouldn’t have had them quite that high, but definitely didn’t mean to leave them off the ballot. We’ve adjusted the article.

Say's Phoebe
Reply to  Robert Gibbs
2 years ago

Thanks. Now the Alabama and Tennessee fans who are on SwimSwam can get right to the argument that they have been waiting for.

Reply to  oxyswim
2 years ago

That’s not necessarily an “either/or” statement. It’s quite possible that the writer both made a mistake, and, is, in fact, a moron.

Although, I definitely just made a mistake as I was re-sorting my rankings. I promise everyone, including my work supervisor, who’s a big Alabama fan (although I doubt he gives a hoot about swimming), that I did not intentionally slight Alabama. Just shaking off a bit of summer rust, just like a lot of swimmers are. 🙂

Last edited 2 years ago by Robert Gibbs
Samuel Huntington
Reply to  Robert Gibbs
2 years ago

Thanks for the explanation!

Samuel Huntington
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Thanks. And hoping that was an oversight about Alabama…

But USC – as someone mentioned Sheridan alone is a massive addition, plus the return of Transom is massive. Remember Delgado missed NCAAs last year. And the freshmen look strong. They already have A final material for many individual events and relays.

Samuel Huntington
Reply to  Samuel Huntington
2 years ago

Edit. USC did go up. I read 22 as 12. But they need to be even higher.

2 years ago

Why don’t more people choose ASU? Bob as the coach is about the best you can go

Reply to  TeamRegan
2 years ago

Michael, is that you? 😉

Reply to  TeamRegan
2 years ago

eddie reese the best

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  matt
2 years ago

He’s coached SO many women to glory. Oh wait…

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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