A week prior to Friday’s showdown against No. 13 University of Louisville, IU women’s swimming and diving head coach Ray Looze said beating a team twice in one season was one of the more challenging feats in sports. This added degree of difficulty proved too much for the Hoosiers. They came up shy of the Cardinals 156.5-143.5 in their regular season finale.
Louisville was quick to capitalize on its home pool advantage, taking first and second in the 200-yard medley relay. Senior Grace Oglesby led the winning Cardinal foursome and made a number of podium appearances throughout the afternoon.
True to form, IU looked for an advantage in the freestyle events and found it with senior Cassy Jernberg and freshman Cora Dupre. Jernberg carried momentum from her dominant performance versus Purdue into the 1,000 freestyle, seizing first with a time of 9:53.02.
Dupre followed up Jernberg’s win with one of her own, a 1:47.79 finish in the 200 freestyle.
The Cardinals fulfilled expectations in the butterfly sprints, with Oglesby leading a sweep of the 100. Though IU freshman Carla Gildersleeve managed to upset Oglesby in the 200, Louisville sophomore Alena Kraus secured the top spot with a time of 1:59.28, a tenth of a second before Gildersleeve.
As the competition progressed, it was clear that much of Louisville’s strength lay in its depth. Despite the top row of the scoreboard being littered with names from IU’s roster such as sophomore Noelle Peplowski and freshman Emily Weiss, the Cardinal runners-up consistently claimed the bulk of each race’s points.
The contest’s last moments were some of its most decisive. A narrow victory by Peplowski in the 200 intermediate medley gave the Hoosiers a chance heading into the meet’s conclusion — the 400 freestyle relay.
If there was any space between Louisville senior Casey Fanz and IU freshman Ashley Turak when the two leapt in the water for the final leg, it did not register on the stopwatch. After a hard-fought 100 yards, Fanz took first by half of a second, sealing triumph for the Cardinals.
After the pool had cleared, Looze said he had nothing but admiration for his group.
“I was super proud of those four girls and the entire team,” he said. “We put ourselves in a position to win the meet in the 400 relay and it came down to the last leg.”
The day would have been lost for the Hoosiers if not for their improvement in previously weaker areas. Freshman Zain Smith and junior Taylor Carter were second and third in the one-meter dive, continuing IU’s marked improvement on the springboard through the year.
The Hoosiers will take their top-25 ranking to Iowa City, Iowa, for the Big Ten Championships on Feb. 19. Though the regular season ended with a blemish on IU’s record, Looze said he was not disappointed by the match’s outcome nor its entertainment value.
“It could not have been more exciting,” he said. “This is what college swimming and diving is all about.”
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