The Michigan women’s swimming and diving team hopped into the pool as the nation’s top-ranked team for the first time this weekend. It emerged knowing its ranking would soon change. A week after the first national coaches’ poll was released, giving the Wolverines the top spot after they defeated five other strong programs in the SMU Classic, including No. 3 Louisville and No. 5 USC, Michigan was upset at a dual meet in Charlottesville, Va.
Though it defeated conference foe Penn State handily (270-83), the Wolverines fell victim to an upset against No. 6 Virginia by a score of 196.5 to 156.5 on Friday and Saturday.
After the loss, Michigan is bound to lose its No. 1 ranking, but coach Mike Bottom doesn’t think that is such a bad thing.
“It’s a little bit of unfamiliar territory for this team to be looked at that way,” Bottom said. “Right now, we’re chasing teams. I think we’re more comfortable in that spot.”
The Cavaliers were boosted by Leah Smith, who won two medals for Team USA in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
But the Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 2-1 overall) have an Olympian of their own in sophomore Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong, who defeated Smith in one of her medal-winning events — the 200-yard freestyle. Three Michigan swimmers finished right behind Smith and Haughey, as junior G Ryan, sophomore Becca Postoll and junior Gabby DeLoof finished 3-4-5 in the event.
Haughey won three other events and has emerged as a consistent leader on the team, following an exceptional freshman campaign that earned her All-American accolades.
“She’s someone we can lean on,” said junior Clara Smiddy. “We can be sure that she’ll always perform.”
Smiddy went on to say that following Haughey’s model of consistency will be the key to the Wolverine’s success going forward.
As for Smiddy’s performances — though she admits that it has been a rocky start to her season — she performed well in Charlottesville, winning the 100-yard backstroke.
Other standouts from the Wolverines this weekend were Ryan and sophomore Astrid Swensen. Swensen placed in the 200-yard butterfly, and Ryan went neck and neck with Virginia’s Smith the entire weekend, placing second behind her in the 500 and 1000-yard freestyles to go along with her third-place finish in the 200 free.
Though the Wolverines were the top-ranked team going in, that doesn’t mean that Bottom expected perfection.
“We win together, we lose together, we stick together no matter what,” Smiddy said of Bottom’s message leading up to the meet. “I think that’s going to be really important as a stepping stone to what we’re trying to achieve at the end of the season.”