It’s that time of the year again. SwimSwam will be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s teams (and then some) from the 2023 NCAA Championships. Follow along with the College Swimming Preview Channel. Want to read even more? Check out the latest edition of the SwimSwam magazine.
#4 Louisville Cardinals
Key Losses: Liberty Williams (9 NCAA points)
Over the years, we’ve gone back and forth on how to project points, ranging from largely subjective rankings to more data-based grading criteria based on ‘projected returning points.’ We like being as objective as possible, but we’re going to stick with the approach we’ve adopted post-Covid. The grades will rely heavily on what swimmers actually did last year, but we’ll also give credit to returning swimmers or freshmen who have posted times that would have scored last year.
Since we only profile the top 12 teams in this format, our grades are designed with that range in mind. In the grand scheme of college swimming and compared to all other college programs, top 12 NCAA programs would pretty much all grade well across the board. But in the interest of making these previews informative, our grading scale is tough – designed to show the tiers between the good stroke groups, the great ones, and the 2015 Texas fly group types.
- 5 star (★★★★★) – a rare, elite NCAA group projected to score 25+ points per event
- 4 star (★★★★) – a very, very good NCAA group projected to score 15-24 points per event
- 3 star (★★★) – a good NCAA group projected to score 5-14 points per event
- 2 star (★★) – a solid NCAA group projected to score 1-4 points per event
- 1 star (★) – an NCAA group that is projected to score no points per event, though that doesn’t mean it’s without potential scorers – they’ll just need to leapfrog some swimmers ahead of them to do it
We’ll grade each event discipline: sprint free (which we define to include all the relay-distance freestyle events, so 50, 100 and 200), distance free, IM, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and diving. Use these grades as a jumping-off point for discussion, rather than a reason to be angry.
Also, keep in mind that we are publishing many of these previews before teams have posted finalized rosters. We’re making our assessments based on the best information we have available at the time of publication, but we reserve the right to make changes after publication based on any new information that may emerge regarding rosters. If that does happen, we’ll make certain to note the change.
The Louisville women produced a program-best fourth-place finish at the 2023 NCAA Championships, scoring the most points they ever have. The Cardinals have also finished in the top 10 in seven of the last eight NCAA Championships (they were 13th in 2021), showing remarkable consistency.
The team also had another “first” as they had two swimmers in the 50 free ‘A’ final at NCAAs with Christiana Regenauer and rising senior Gabi Albiero, the first time the program had ever accomplished the feat.
Louisville scored in all five relays, making the top eight in all except the 800 freestyle relay where they finished 11th, which was a driving force behind their impressive team performance.
SPRINT FREE: ★★★★½
As mentioned above, the team had their first NCAA ‘A’ final featuring two swimmers as Gabi Albiero and Christiana Regenauer did so in the 50 free. Albiero finished 3rd (21.30) and Regenauer was 7th (21.68).
Freshman Julia Dennis also made the ‘B’ final of the 50 free, dropping a tenth off of her seed time to finish 9th in prelims before finishing 12th in finals. Three of the ‘A’ finalists in this event have graduated, so Dennis has the potential to move into the ‘A’ final and make it three ‘A’ finalists for the team.
Albiero and Regenauer continued to make history, again making the ‘A’ final of the 100 free as Albiero finished 4th and Regenauer tied for 7th.
Once again, a freshman was able to impress as Ella Welch swam a time of 48.00 in prelims. That was just off of her best time of 47.99, which is what it took to earn a second swim, but six women who made finals in the event will not be swimming this upcoming season, so there are a good amount of spots to be filled.
Rising senior Paige Hetrick had a huge NCAA swim in prelims of the 200 free to drop almost a second off of her seed time to make the ‘A’ final. Hetrick went on to finish 8th, capturing valuable points to round out the sprint free group.
No one else swam the 200 free for the team at NCAAs (Welch and Dennis declared false starts) so the development of another 200 freestyler and another potential finalist (even a ‘B’ final swim) would push them from the 4.5 stars to the five-star category.
Costea, a Romanian, notably owns a long course PB of 25.34 in the 50 free, while Mehraban owns a very similar LCM time (25.40) and has been 22.8/49.3 in yards. The Cards might not need them on relays this season, but it’s a good sign for the future.
DISTANCE FREE: ★
The loss of Liberty Williams will hurt in the distance free events as the team only had two other distance swims, one in each event, at NCAAs.
Rye Ulett was just off of her seed time and finished 54th in the 500 freestyle (4:46.04). It took 4:40.81 to earn a second swim.
Rising sophomore Paige Kuwata gained almost 20 seconds off of her entry time at NCAAs, finishing 40th in the 1650. Kuwata’s season-best of 16:12.19 would’ve still been about nine seconds short of scoring position.
The team had no 100 backstroke swims at NCAAs, but Paige Hetrick made the ‘B’ final of the 200 backstroke after once again having a big prelims swim. Hetrick swam a 1:51.90 in finals to finish 10th.
Just off of adding points was Rye Ulett who finished 17th in prelims, 0.31 seconds off of earning a second swim. At least four swimmers will not be in the event this year (graduated or redshirt) so there are spots open to move into the final.
The team’s only NCAA breaststroke swim came from rising sophomore Cecilia Viberg who logged a time of 1:00.09 to tie for 35th.
Viberg recorded a PB of 59.37 during the Purdue Invite in November, which, if she had replicated it, would have been 19th in prelims. She also split 59.29 on the team’s 400 medley relay at NCAAs, a positive sign for her individual performance next year.
A Swedish native, Viberg will surely benefit as a sophomore with one year of yards swimming under her belt.
The 100 fly is another stacked event for the team as Gabi Albiero led the way by tying Emma Sticklen of Texas for 5th at NCAAs. Even though Albiero was 5th, both she and Sticklen are the top returners this season as Kate Douglass and Maggie MacNeil have graduated and Claire Curzan and Torri Huske are taking an Olympic redshirt year. Could the 100 fly be Albiero’s NCAA title moment this season?
Albiero is not alone in the 100 fly, as both Tristen Ulett and Christiana Regenauer made the ‘B’ final, finishing 11th and 13th, respectively. With the five losses in the ‘A’ final of the event, there are many spots open to move up and make the ‘A’ final.
Abby Hay leads the way in the 200 fly after finishing 8th in the event at NCAAs this past year. She dropped from her seed time to be 5th heading into the final and was slightly off her prelims time to finish 8th.
Rising senior Tristen Ulett also swam in prelims of the 200 fly and was 24th. The event still looks to be competitive this year with not a ton of losses.
Abby Hay’s return is significant in the IM group as she scored in both events this past season. Hay finished 7th in the 200 IM, dropping a second off of her seed time to qualify 4th headed into finals. Hay also was 10th in the 400 IM.
Rising senior Else Praasterink had a historic season, highlighted by an 8th-place finish on both the 3-meter and platform events. Praasterink continues to improve after qualifying for NCAAs as a freshman, scoring in the ‘B’ final as a sophomore, and now making two ‘A’ finals.
The relays are a big point of emphasis for Louisville after they finished inside the top eight in the 200 free, 400 free, 200 medley, and 400 medley at NCAAs. Their lowest finish was 11th in the 800 free relay.
Overall, they scored 126 points in the relays, nearly 44 percent of their final tally.
Louisville has the depth and firepower in the sprint free events to challenge for one of the top spots in the 200 and 400 free relays once again.
Although they lack the top-tier backstroker and breaststroker other programs might boast, they make up for it with thier fly and free prowess to keep the medleys inside the top eight.
Just like this past season, the 800 free relay will still be a development question mark, especially with the departure of sprint freestyle coach Bryon Tansel, who went to Michigan.
Total Stars: 23/40
Louisville has a lot of similarities to Ohio State. Both teams return fifth-years who are key to their NCAA points at both the individual and relay levels, and both are also super strong and have tons of depth in the sprint freestyles. The biggest difference is that this team has the depth into the 200s of stroke events and picks up extra points there.
This team looks primed for a third-place finish, which would make history as the highest finish ever. They also look to have the potential to have three ‘A’ finalists in the sprint freestyles and two (or three) ‘A’ finalists in the 100 fly.
Although the team has what may seem like some gaps, the team is able to have enough solid relay legs on the medley relay to put together some of the top in the country. In addition, the depth of the sprint freestyle group makes them some of the top in the sprint free relays.
Women’s 2023-24 College Preview Index
|Team||Sprint Free||Distance||Backstroke||Breaststroke||Butterfly||IM||Diving||Relays||Total Stars|
|#4 Louisville Cardinals||★★★★½||★||★★||★||★★★★||★★★||★★★||★★★★½||23/40|
|#5 NC State Wolfpack||★★★||★★||★★★★½||★||★★★||★★★||★½||★★★★||22/40|
|#6 Ohio State Buckeyes||★★★★||★★||★★||★★★½||★★★||★★||★★||★★★★½||23/40|
|#7 Indiana Hoosiers||★★★||★★★★||★★||★★||★||★||★★★★★||★★★★||22/40|
|#8 Tennessee Volunteers||★★★||★★★★||★★★||★★★★||★★||★★||★||★★★||22/40|
|#9 Florida Gators||★★★||★★★★||★★||★★||★★||★★★★★||★||★★★★||23/40|
|#10 UNC Tar Heels||★||★||★★||★★||★★||★||★★★★||★★||15/40|
|#11 Cal Bears||★★||★★||★★★★||★||★★½||★★★½||★||★★★||19/40|
|#12 USC Trojans||★½||★★||★||★★★½||★★||★★||★★★||★★★||18/40|