Michigan resumes dominance over Buckeyes in the pool

For the Daily
Published January 23, 2011

After losing to Ohio State last season for just the second time since 1985, the Michigan women’s swimming and diving team bounced back to beat the Buckeyes at home, 160-135.

While winning dual meets has not been the ultimate goal this season, it’s safe to say this meet carried some extra weight.

The 15th-ranked Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 5-5 overall) began the evening trailing the Buckeyes in the first three events, including the grueling 1,000-yard freestyle. Michigan first showed signs of life in the 100-yard breaststroke, taking the first- second- fourth- and fifth-positions on the
board over Ohio State, and never looked back.

Leading the charge was the “1-2-3” win in the 200-yard backstroke as Mattie Kukors took first, Ashley Cohagen took second and Samantha Pearson third.

Coming into Friday’s meet the 18th-ranked Buckeyes boasted an undefeated record of 6-0, but hadn’t yet competed in a conference meet. Not only had they not faced a Big Ten team all season, but they also hadn’t left the state of Ohio — among their opponents included Division-II teams Kenyon College, Denison University and Wright State University.

When asked about the team’s loss last season to Ohio State, Michigan coach Jim Richardson gave some insight into how a long bus ride to the meet can sometimes be the difference between a win and a loss.

“I think Ohio State experienced today what we experienced last year,” Richardson said. “After sitting in the same place for three hours, warm up for a few hours and then trying to swim great after rigorous training, you are going to be sore and stiff … Being the visiting team in this meet is hard.”

While the loss last season gave the Wolverines plenty of ammunition to perform at their best, the absence of injured senior sprinter Natasha Moodie seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Junior Alexa Mehesan did her best to fill the gap, grabbing first in the 50-yard freestyle, the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay.

“With one of our top sprinters out, I felt like I really had to step it up and be a leader for the team,” Mehesan said.

Kukors also managed her share of the slack by taking first in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, as well as the 200-yard medley relay. She emphasized the team effort on display at Friday’s meet.

“(The team) really vibes off each other,” Kukors said. “If someone has a great swim, you see that, and because we all trained together, we can get everyone’s energy up. Energy in swimming is everything.”

On a springboard, the meet marked a strong performance for returning senior diver Rachel Ropeik who grabbed third place in the one meter dive while junior Amanda Lohman placed second in the same event. Diving head coach KZ Li is working his team in preparation for the Big Ten tournament, which is coming up in just a few short weeks.

“The team has been doing really well, especially our younger divers,” Li said. “We are focusing on producing quality dives and putting all our energy into the Big Ten tournament.”

Next week, the Wolverines will look to close out the regular season on a high note with their final two dual meets against Michigan State and Penn State. The team is hopeful that this win over the Buckeyes will give them the proper momentum to push through this weekend and into the conference meet.