Oct. 20, 2005
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern enters the 2005-06 season off one of its most impressive dual campaigns in recent memory and its first All-America nods since 2002. This year, head coach Jimmy Tierney is eyeing a translation of that success onto the Big Ten and NCAA Championships stages.
Last year, the Wildcats swam to an 8-4 dual record with wins over No. 8 Michigan, No. 21 Indiana and No. 23 Tennessee. Northwestern finished the season ranked No. 25 in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) dual meet poll.
"We are excited this year because we definitely have strong talent returning and some new blood to infuse extra enthusiasm and potential," Tierney says. "This is one of the smallest teams I have ever had so our emphasis is more on quality, not quantity."
With just 14 swimmers on the women's roster this year, early season dual meet success might be tough to come by. Tierney's team is focused on individual efforts coming together for group success this season.
"We want to increase our number of Big Ten finalists and NCAA qualifiers," Tierney says. "If we improve our percentage of lifetime bests, the team goals will take care of themselves. We are looking at how each individual fits the total team picture."
Northwestern finished seventh in the conference last year and 36th in the nation.
The Wildcats open their season this weekend, traveling to UW-Milwaukee Friday, Oct. 21, before returning home Sunday, Oct. 23, for the NU Relays. Friday's meet begins at 4 p.m., while Sunday's action gets underway at noon at the Norris Aquatics Center.
All Northwestern home meets will be broadcast live on the internet with streaming video available at NUsports.com via CSTV's All-Access. To subscribe to the service, visit NUsports.com and navigate to the audio/video page. Links to current live broadcasts can be found at the top of the page under "Today's Events." Links will be made live shortly before the start of the meet.
Following is an event-by-event look at the 2005-06 Wildcats:
Anchoring the sprint free events for NU is one of the brightest young talents in the country.
Sophomore Andrea Hupman earned All-America honors in the 100 free, and set the school record in the 200 freestyle as a freshman. The All-Big Ten selection participated in the World University Games in Turkey this August, winning two gold medals with the U.S.'s 400 and 800 free relays.
"We are excited to return a talented All-American in Andrea," Tierney says. "We also have another NCAA qualifier in senior Michelle Oeser back, and those two will help lead us this year."
Senior co-captain Sara Petric rounds out a trio of sprinters with experience for the Wildcats.
In addition to Hupman in the 200, Tierney is looking to sophomores Katie Braun and Katie Welnhofer to contribute in the sprint and middle-distance freestyle events.
Senior co-captain Amy Mueller returns as NU's top distance swimmer.
"Amy was a four-event scorer at the Big Ten championships for us last season," Tierney says. "In addition to the free, she also swims the 400 IM and is huge for us. We will rely on Amy quite a bit this year."
Senior Katie Paglini and sophomore Carrera Harris are coming off solid seasons that saw both score points at the Big Ten meet. Freshman Sara White-Delehoy will play a major role this season, too. All three will swim both the 100 and 200 events.
Sophomore Jessie Bailis and freshman Hayley Fry are both Big Ten finalist types of individuals according to Tierney. Bailis will swim mainly the 100 breast while Fry and freshman Jill Forster will swim both breast events.
"I am very encouraged with how these girls are working together. They will all improve this year."
Braun is NU's best returner in the fly after scoring in both the 100 and 200 at the Big Ten Championships. Welnhofer is capable of scoring this season, and both will be pushed by freshman Rotem Peled.
"Katie Braun is capable of being an NCAA qualifier this year," Tierney says. "Rotem is talented and is going to be very good. She will go in both flys and will team well with Katie Braun and Katie Welnhofer this year."
Braun, Paglini, Harris and Mueller will all be contributers this year. Mueller will focus solely on the 400 IM after scoring in it at the Big Ten meet last year.
"Braun posted a great 200 time at the end of last season and has big potential," Tierney says. "Paglini has scored before at the Big Ten meet, and Carrera is capable of reaching that level. I believe Braun and Paglini both are talented enough to reach the NCAA Championships."
"We have good stroke people in every event, so if everybody puts it together, we can make the NCAA Championships with our medleys," Tierney says. "Our free sprinters are good so our short free relay will be strong, too. Our goal is to improve our placing at the Big Ten meet and qualify at least one relay for the NCAA meet. The 400 and 800 free relays are wide open. I am looking to see who really wants those spots at the Big Ten meet."
Northwestern diving is taking on a new meaning for the 2005-06 season. With more experience at the top, more depth all-around and more talent throughout, the Wildcats are poised to break out on the national stage this season.
Six divers -- three men and three women -- comprise this year's squad, the biggest since sixth year head coach Tom Michael took over the program in 2000. Sheer volume is not the sole reason for excitement, however. Michael feels every student-athlete on his roster has the ability to do something special.
"Since I have been here, the program has increased in the number of athletes as well as in the quality of the athletes," Michael says. "Not only do I think we can have finalists at both Big Ten meets, but I believe we have the chance to win some events."
Michael is looking to his upperclassmen to lead by example and to build on the success they have had in the past. On the men's side, senior Mike Oxman has made the finals at the Big Ten Championships in all three of his previous seasons. For the women, junior Leanne Dumais earned Big Ten Diver of the Week honors twice in 2004-05.
"I am looking for upperclassmen to be the leaders on the largest diving team NU has had since I have been here," Michael says. "Oxman was the alternate for the men's NCAA Championships last year, so this season we hope to make improvements to get him to the big dance. Leanne is a seasoned competitor at the junior world levels."
Returning for their sophomore seasons are Ryan McIntosh for the men and Beth Campbell for the women. Both qualified for the NCAA Zone meet last season.
This year's squad brings a pair of newcomers in Alex Kiaie for the men and Chelsea Davis for the women. Kiaie was a two-time All-America honoree in high school, while Davis is one of the most talented springboard divers in the country.
"Chelsea brings a vast amount of depth to this program," Michael says. "She has raised the bar for training here. She was a member of the 2005 World Championships diving team and we are looking for some big things from this young lady throughout her four years here."
With all four returners having already qualified for the NCAA Zone meet in their careers, and two newcomers with impressive credentials, all signs point to the 2005-06 season signaling the arrival of NU diving on the national scene.
"Without singling anybody out, I think we could win events at both the men's and women's Big Ten Championships meets," Michael says. "I also think we can give anybody in the country a run for their money."
With Northwestern's swimming programs both established players at the NCAA Championships level, the increased depth of NU diving will be key to the collective Wildcats' overall success in the pool this year.
"The diving team has steadily grown and gotten better," Michael says. "With the amount of divers and the depth we have on both sides, I feel we can be major contributers to both swimming programs at the Big Ten and NCAA levels.
"In terms of both the men's and women's teams, I would like to see four finalists at the Big Ten Championships, with all divers scoring."
If ever that goal was attainable for Northwestern diving, this is the year.