Women’s team beats two foes ranked in top 10

by Brian Stensaas

Going into this weekend’s two-day, four-team meet, women’s swimming coach Jean Freeman said that she wasn’t sure if her team would be ready for the tough competition.
Facing three ranked opponents in the top 20 — the first time the Gophers have seen any ranked team this season — No. 11 Minnesota showed that it was ready, beating two of three.
Two out of three ain’t bad.
“We’re really happy with the way we swam,” she said. “We improved our times immensely from the first two or three weekends. I think our team responded very well to the challenges.”
Minnesota handed ninth-ranked Nebraska a 223-135 loss and defeated eighth-ranked Michigan 203-167. No. 20 North Carolina edged the Gophers 188-182.
Freeman said that the Tarheels’ fast times, namely on the first day of competition, surprised her. After Friday night, North Carolina had Minnesota by 28 points.
“I was shocked at how fast North Carolina’s times were, especially Friday night,” Freeman said. “They surprised us, no doubt about that. But to see (our) team make up so many points in one day, that I was happy with.”
What inspired the team to regroup and come back to almost defeat North Carolina may never be known. One thing is for sure — they had the support of fellow Gophers.
Members of Minnesota’s women’s hockey team showed up to the aquatic center Saturday in bathing suits and towels. Most were also accompanied by hockey sticks and helmets.
Also making the day one to remember was that for the second time in a row, the Gophers were able to hand the Wolverines a loss and it marks just the second time in school history that Minnesota has been able to defeat Michigan after years of frustration.
Minnesota’s two wins in the 200-yard medley relay and 200 freestyle relay over the weekend were pleasant surprises to Freeman. She said that the times turned in by those teams were above and beyond what she expected for this early in the season.
Senior diver Rachel Degener won the one-meter competition while junior Tracy LaVoi captured the three-meter title. Minnesota swept the top-three places in both events.
Freshman distance swimmer Dana Baum, who contracted mono early in the season and was held out of distance events in Washington, showed that she is back on track. Baum took fourth in the 500 freestyle, her first long swim for the Gophers.
“I was excited to swim in a 500 again,” she said. “I was worried a little because I wasn’t able to train as much as I could have, but luckily it came early and now I can get back to my full (practice) load.”
While it may look like last year with the win over Michigan, Freeman knows that it’s a totally different season.
“The team chemistry needs to gel,” she said. “We have this picture in our minds of Big Tens last year, and it’s a different team this year. You have to take time to get the new members in. That’s what this November time is for.”
Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected].