In its previous 15 consecutive Big Ten dual meets since the 2013-14 season, the sixth-ranked Michigan women’s swimming and diving team (2-0 Big Ten, 3-1 overall) has posted an impressive 15-0 record. After Friday’s 211-87 victory over No. 13 Indiana (1-1, 6-3), it seems Michigan’s winning streak isn’t showing any signs of stopping.
Following a strong performance in last week’s Orange Bowl Classic — where the team won all 12 events and set meet records in nine of them — the Wolverines rode their momentum into Bloomington and continued to post solid times against some of the fiercest competition they will face this season.
“We saw some women who needed to see themselves in a different light,” said Michigan coach Mike Bottom. “They’ve been looking at Indiana as a really, really good team, so to see how we (had 1-2-3 finishes) and (a 1-2-3-4 finish) in one event, the women gained a lot of confidence.”
Buoyed by a balanced attack, the Wolverines won 12 of 16 events and went 1-2-3 in five of them. Four swimmers earned multiple individual victories, headlined by sophomore Siobhán Haughey (100-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle, 200-yard IM) and junior Clara Smiddy (100-yard backstroke, 200-yard backstroke).
“We will move forward on our team, not on any individual,” Bottom said. “Whether it be (sophomore) Rose Bi swimming the 100-yard breaststroke and getting second or (junior) Sam Yeo getting third in the 200 IM, those are points for Michigan, and that is how we will move forward.”
Bi added wins in both the 500 and 1000-yard freestyle races, and her 9:43.77 in the latter was almost 15 seconds faster than the second-place finisher. Usually a distance specialist, the sophomore was mere seconds behind Indiana star Lilly King in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Keeping up with King, the two-time 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist, was an important takeaway for the Wolverines, encouraging them to trust in their abilities even more.
“Lilly King is the name in our sport right now, and we had breaststrokers who, yes, got beat by her, but it wasn’t the pouncing we expected,” Bottom said. “So even that, to stay in range of a superstar like that, we gained confidence from that, and that’s what we need heading into the Big Tens and NCAA Tournament.”
Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week Vanessa Krause — who has already captured the award three times this season — continued to impress with individual wins in both the 100 and 200-yard butterfly events. The Indiana native, who was cheered on by her entire family, credited her familiarity with Indiana’s Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatics Center as an advantage. This experience paid dividends, as Krause narrowly prevailed by .06 and .5 seconds, respectively.
While winning is a bonus at dual meets, they are primarily used as barometers for teams to analyze their performances and see where they stand midway through the season.
“They’re a good check for us to see what is working and what we need to improve on,” Haughey said. “After dual meets, we have some time to go back to our own pool and work on things that we have to work on.”
Even after a dominant victory, the ability to make adjustments and tune the finer details of a swimmer’s race is essential for Michigan, especially in the stretch run.
“This win definitely boosted our confidence, but you never know who’s going to come out strong at (the Big Ten Championships), so we always have to be ready and can’t let up,” Krause said. “They say you have to work hard up until the last race, so we have to make sure we’re putting in the work before conferences.”