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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Noah
1 month ago

Why is USC so low?? Why is Cal fifth after Stanford, who they looked way better than?

Kipps Water Bottle
Reply to  Noah
1 month ago

Gotta stay low if you’re going to duck them water bottles.

oxyswim
Reply to  Noah
1 month ago

These aren’t just dual meet rankings. Hard to ignore the talent Stanford has.

Noah
Reply to  oxyswim
1 month ago

Stanford obviously has a lot of talent, but power rankings *should be* based on recent performance.

VABeach
Reply to  Noah
1 month ago

Any of the top 3 teams can win NCAAs. Any of the next 10 teams could finish 4th. Early season meets mean very little as coaches have vastly different strategies. March will be fun!

Swimmer
1 month ago

Hot take: Princeton is going to have a breakout season and crack top 20

DJTrockstoYMCA
Reply to  Swimmer
1 month ago

And your point is??

Ledecky will go under 8 minutes in the 800
1 month ago

these rankings are…interesting

ACC fan
1 month ago

Can you imagine UVA if Paige Madden had done her fifth year?!!!

Swimm
1 month ago

Alabama got 5th at NCAAs, lost none of their returning points, and somehow fell to 14th? Make it make sense…

Klorn8d
Reply to  Swimm
1 month ago

I have no ties to Alabama and I do not understand the hate. I get Stanford will jump them but why would they moved down so far?

swimswamswum
Reply to  Swimm
1 month ago

Reading between the lines? I would guess a mix of loosing a few relay pieces and lack of faith in Greer pulling through the same post season success.

Swimm
Reply to  swimswamswum
1 month ago

The relays return 18/20 legs, and the two legs lost are easily replaced. I also think people greatly overestimate how many of the top women swam for Coley. The vast majority of the top women (including some of the 50/100 freestylers) are not seeing a coaching change, as they swam with other coaches who are still on staff.

BobbyJ
Reply to  Swimm
1 month ago

yes is does, they have a new coach who will likely not produce the same success as the previous coach.

Stan Crump
1 month ago

Better move USC up after the article you just wrote.

oxyswim
Reply to  Stan Crump
1 month ago

Calypso Sheridan alone will be worth an extra 45 individual points.

AJay
1 month ago

Why is CAL so low??????????

Snark
Reply to  AJay
1 month ago

HC ambling towards retirement…..brings in a D3 swimming protege that hasn’t accomplished much in the big leagues….what did you expect?

Snark
Reply to  Snark
1 month ago

Don’t hate the playa, hate the game!

samulih
Reply to  Snark
1 month ago

that does not make any sense when talking about these rankings, read the criteria and leave your tinfoil hate stuff home

Ervin
1 month ago

Alabama way too low

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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