A loss is a difficult way to begin a season, but the Michigan women”s swimming and diving team proved Friday that it is ready to compete with the best teams in the nation.

Going up against a Florida team with two wins already under its belt was not easy for the Wolverines, who competed for the first time this season.

But Michigan won half of the races against the Gators and came within 15 points of defeating them. The Wolverines also took second at the Florida Relays on Saturday.

“We probably couldn”t have hoped for better results,” said assistant coach Stefanie Kerska, filling in for head coach Jim Richardson, who was on a recruiting trip this weekend. “Across the board we were really strong and focused. We”ve had a tendency in the past to start slow and build off that. This year we started well and hopefully we will continue that.”

Michigan”s sophomores led the way as breaststroker Kelli Stein and diver Tealin Kelemen each earned two first places in their individual events. Sara Johnson also claimed a first in the 200-yard individual medley.

The Florida dual meet was Stein”s first as a Wolverine and was a great start to her career with the maize and blue.

“Putting on the Michigan cap (on Friday) I felt like a Wolverine for the first time,” said Stein. “With my times I”m always looking to improve, and the team has been great.”

Also performing well in her first collegiate contest was freshman Amy McCullough, who made her debut against one of the best freestyle swimmers in the world, Janelle Atkinson. Two races (500- and 1,000-yard freestyle) against the All-American could have been intimidating. But McCullough paid no attention to her highly-ranked competitor and earned an NCAA Zone B qualifying time in the 500 free while taking second in each event.

Senior Lindsay Carlberg and junior Laura Kaznecki each had first places in the 200-yard backstroke and 50-yard freestyle, respectively. The wins, though, were not what Kerska was looking at the most. She was more impressed with the way each raced for times that normally are not seen at the beginning of a season.

Kerska attributed these strong performances to the hard work and competitive success over the summer. Carlberg was a Michigan representative at the World University Games this past August and earned a sixth-place finish in the 200 backstroke.

After this summer “we came in looking a lot better,” said Kerska. “We”re at a higher level right now.”

Michigan heads out east next weekend to face an Ivy League duo of Harvard and Brown.

Friday”s contest against the Crimson begins a tough stretch for Michigan, which has two dual meets and three invitationals during the next four weeks.

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