Northwestern strokes into Bloomington on Friday

Coming off a solid win against Kentucky in its season-opening meet last Saturday, the No. 8 IU women’s swimming and diving team looks to continue its strong performance Friday afternoon, when the Hoosiers host No. 22 Northwestern at 3 p.m.

The Wildcats will present some tough challenges to the talented Hoosier team, said IU coach Ray Looze.

“They’re one of the better teams in the Big Ten this year, and I think they’re one of the best dual meet teams in the country, so we have our work cut out for us,” Looze said. “I’d say they’re probably favored on paper coming into the meet. They can win a lot of events, so our girls are really going to have to dig down and do some soul searching and maybe win some races they weren’t expected to win.”

Looze, who describes his team as having an “end of the season focus,” has increased the amount of yardage in training for the week to its highest level of the season, while at the same time asking for more intensity during the workouts. The swimmers have also had a demanding week in the weight room.

“We just want to go into the Northwestern meet tired and fatigued, and compete hard,” Looze said. “We want to win, and it’s going to be tough.”

The swimmers themselves feel likewise prepared.

“A lot of people are going to be tired, but I still think we’re ready to go,” sophomore Ashley Jones said. “Everyone’s always excited when meets come around, no matter how tired they are.”

The Hoosiers have reason to be excited – in their season-opening win against Kentucky, the team won 15 of 16 swimming and diving events.

“We all thought we had a really good week last week, and we’re looking to work hard this week,” said senior captain Abby Cooper. “We’re counting on our hard work to get us through.”

Junior Kate Zubkova’s performance against Kentucky earned her Big Ten Swimmer of the Week honors. Zubkova, who won the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events during last year’s Big Ten Championships and also competed in the 2008 Olympics, was victorious in the 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard individual medley and was part of IU’s first-place 200-yard medley relay during Saturday’s win over Kentucky.

Despite the overwhelming victory last Saturday, Looze said the team has put the past behind it and is concentrating on the task at hand.

“(The win over Kentucky) is in the past, so we’ve sort of forgotten about it,” Looze said. “We’re just focusing on doing a good job in practice, swimming fast in practice and having that carry over into our competition.”

Today’s meet will be the last home meet for the Hoosiers until the Hoosierland Invitational begins on Nov. 21.

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