Men return to action, women face toughest test yet

The Gophers men and women will face Wisconsin this weekend at home.

Megan Ryan

The Gophers men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams will reunite against a common Big Ten rival Friday for the first time since the start of the season.

Minnesota will host Wisconsin in a dual meet at the University Aquatic Center. The last time both teams faced a Big Ten opponent together was at the beginning of the month in Michigan.

Since then, the men have only held an intrasquad meet and took last week off from competition.

Head men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Kelly Kremer said the break has only motivated the men.

“I think that just makes our men hungrier to compete, and I think they’re kind of chomping at the bit to get going,” Kremer said. “They would have been ready this past week.”

Senior captain Jared Anderson said after the men watched the women compete against Iowa State and Kansas, they were itching to dive back into competition.

“I think we’re really ready to get out and swim [against] somebody we can really get after again,” Anderson said.

Anderson hopes his team can continue the momentum it built at the intrasquad meet, when the team was joking around and very loose, he said. The men swam much better against each other than they did in their first meet of the season, Anderson said.

In the latest College Swimming Coaches Association of America poll released Wednesday, the Minnesota men ranked 13th in the nation. Wisconsin came in at No. 25.

While the competition isn’t quite at the level of defending Big Ten champions Michigan, Anderson said the Badgers would still be a worthwhile foe.

“I think in every event, they should have a guy that can at least give us a run,” Anderson said.

For the women, Wisconsin will be their first real test so far this season.

The Gophers demolished Michigan 196-99, stopped scoring swimmers and divers in a 144-140 win over Iowa State and beat Kansas 179-119.

At last year’s NCAA championships, the Wisconsin women placed 15th to Minnesota’s 11th. The Badgers previously finished fourth at the Big Ten championships that the Gophers won.

But the higher-level opposition won’t affect how the women prepare, Kremer said.

“It’s just another quality team coming in to compete against us,” Kremer said.

Sophomore Jessica Plant said the Gophers are excited to take on a good team at full strength.

“For a few weeks, we haven’t had our best lineup. Not all our girls have been there,” Plant said. “And it’s good to have someone that is a challenge to compete with at [the] Big Ten [championships].”

She said winning the conference is not easy, so it’s important to swim against challenging opponents early.