Amid a schedule loaded with top-10 opposition, Saturday’s meet versus unranked Purdue at the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatics Center will be a change of pace for IU women’s swimming and diving. After falling to Big Ten-favorite Michigan last week, this rivalry matchup is an opportunity for IU to reestablish itself among the league’s upper echelon.
Headlining the Boilermakers’ roster is freshman Kendra Bowen. Her time of 1:47.65 in the 200-yard freestyle at the Purdue Invitational puts her in a burgeoning class of young Big Ten stars. Meanwhile, the duo of senior Jinq En Phee and junior Riley Kishman has formed a habit of crowding podiums through the past three years. Both have earned NCAA B-cuts this season.
Still, the edge in the swimming events belongs to the Hoosiers. Sophomore Noelle Peplowski and freshman Emily Weiss have traded first and second all year in the breaststroke. Freshman Cora Dupre may be the Hoosiers’ best bet in the freestyle, but senior Maria Paula Heitmann and junior Josie Grote are seldom far behind.
Purdue’s best chance to spoil IU’s return home will come with the one-meter dive, where senior Emily Meaney and junior Emily Bretscher rank second and fourth in the conference.
However, the Hoosiers have been making their own leaps on the springboard. Against Michigan, junior Taylor Carter and sophomores Alyssa Wang and Kayla Luarde all posted NCAA Zone-qualifying scores.
In the season’s earlier contests, the Hoosiers were hamstrung by injury. Head coach Ray Looze has noted the resilience of his depth chart, albeit depleted, particularly in the wake of close losses to highly ranked competitors.
“That’s the sign of a team that’s moving in the right direction,” Looze said.
Particularly, Looze commended the group’s maturity in quietly adopting a no-excuses attitude, despite its recent medical history.
“It’s nothing we saw in the locker room or necessarily in practice, but it clearly happened,” he said. “And I think it happened with no one watching, which is the most powerful way to do it.
The roster has since regained a clean bill of health, with Saturday marking senior Shelby Koontz and freshman Ryley Ober’s season home debut. Despite being back in Bloomington, entering a meet healthy and as the considerable favorite is an unfamiliar position for the Hoosiers.
No longer able to rely on an underdog mentality that comes with a lower ranking, the Hoosiers will need to take command and maintain focus, a task easier said than done with one eye undoubtedly trained on the fast-approaching Big Ten Championships.