The Louisville Cardinals looked really good in their season-opening dual meet against Xavier on Friday night, with the women taking a huge 195-64 win, and the Cardinals’ men seeing a 189-70 score (both Louisville teams exhibitioned all but winners in the last few events).
For the Louisville men, the story was their star and NCAA Champion, senior Joao de Lucca. He won the 200 free in a nation-leading 1:37.43 to retake the spot he held with so many good early-season spots last year as well. He then won the 100 free in 44.46, and swam kind of an off-race in the 200 IM in 1:59.13.
As exciting as de Lucca’s performance was, though, that of his freestyle training partners will be equally encouraging for the Cardinals’ chances at a second top-10 finish in three years. Freshman Trevor Carroll started his collegiate career off right by taking 2nd in the 200 free in 1:39.22, and another freshman Mathias Lindenbauer was 3rd in 1:42.51. In the 100 free, junior Carlyle Blondell was 2nd in 44.67, as Louisville joins Florida, Georgia, and Cal as the only teams with two guys flat-starting better than 45 seconds this year.
Blondell also tagged on a win in the 50 free, where he swam 20.68.
The Louisville breaststrokers, which is their other strength, had mixed results on the day. Senior Kameron Chastain won the 100 in 56.44, with junior Addison Bray taking 2nd in 57.43. Both swimmers were 2:05’s in the 200 yard race.
Missouri transfer Neil O’Halloran is paying immediate dividends for the Cardinal; he led a deep Louisville group in the 100 fly with a 49.58, followed by sophomore teammate Pedro Coutinho in 59.67 and freshman Mihael Vukic in 50.05. Freshman Josh Quallen took the 200 fly in 1:50.76, bettering O’Halloran by two seconds, and Nolan Tesone just out-touched Quallen on the 200 IM (thanks to a superior breaststroke leg) 1:52.15-1:52.39.
And finally, more newcomers for this Louisville team: freshman Grigory Tarasevich won the 100 back in 50.23, and his fellow freshman Aaron Greene took the 200 in 1:48.96.
Louisville is a better team than they were last year, there’s little doubt about that; the only question is what it will amount to. With them being far-and-away the dominant team in the AAC, any improvements in the team’s overall quality have to translate to NCAA’s. The good news for them is that a lot of these swims by the newcomers, especially the 200 free by Carroll, look like that’s just what they’re going to be.
Xavier’s men had some good swims of their own from the younger ranks of the team. Rodrigo Suriano led them in the backstroke, taking 5th overall, in 52.85; and sophomore Luke Johanns took 2nd in the 50 free in 21.22. That 2-3 finish made the 200 yard free relay very interesting, as Louisville was just able to win in 1:22.91 ahead of Xavier’s 1:23.00 (note that de Lucca didn’t swim that relay).
Not to be outdone, the Louisville women looked very good, and perhaps outswam the men’s team even.
Tanja Kylliainen rocked her first meet back after swimming for Finland at the World Championships this summer. The team’s two-time defending MVP looks like she’s on track to win a third-straight honor after crushing a 1:58.79 in the 200 fly. That’s the best time in the nation so far this year, and was one of two wins for her (she won the 200 IM in 2:02.64).
In the backstrokes, the Cardinal’s looked strong, even without their best sprint backstroker Krissie Brandenburg at this meet. Kelsi Worrell, who heads into her sophomore year with national title potential in the 100 fly, took the 2nd win in 55.35, and Erica Belcher took 2nd in 56.61. Belcher won the 200 back in 2:02.11.
Worrell also won the 100 fly in 54.91.
The Louisville women’s sprint group didn’t swim quite as well as the men did, but they still went 1-4. Senior Breann McDowell won in 51.28, and freshman newcomer Alex Sellers was 2nd in 52.79. McDowell also won the 200 free in 1:50.04.
Other winners for the Cardinals include senior Gisselle Kohoyda, who took the 200 breaststroke in 2:19.68, and junior Rachael Lewis, who won the 50 free in 23.89.
Full meet results are available here.