The Indiana swim and dive teams wrapped up preseason preparations with an intrasquad scrimmage meet Saturday morning at the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatics Center in Bloomington.
The Hoosiers are faced with a quicker turnaround than in previous seasons, as they will head to Lexington, Kentucky, to begin their season against the University of Kentucky.
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“We’re coming off what we call general conditioning, which is pretty tough,” head swimming coach Ray Looze said. “It’s kind of a boot camp-like setting. (Today) we had some really good swims, we had some tired swims and we’ve got some people who still aren’t very fit. That’s what you expect.”
Personnel-wise, the men’s and women’s teams are in different spots. Looze said the men’s team is veteran-dominated, and he listed Van Mathias, Brendan Burns, Tomer Frankel, Rafael Miroslaw and Josh Matheny as some of the program’s well-established swimmers.
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On the women’s side, Looze said there is a lot of young talent and a much-improved butterfly team. Included in this group are freshmen Kristina Paegal and Mya DeWitt, as well as sophomores Mariah Denigan and Ching Gan in addition to returning breaststroker Noelle Peplowski.
Indiana will be met with a challenge when it faces off against the University of Texas and Texas A&M University on Oct. 21 in Austin, Texas. Last season, the Texas men’s and women’s teams were podium finishers nationally — the men were runners-up while the women finished third in the NCAA swimming and diving championships.
“They’re very good,” Looze said. “It’s going to be a challenge because they’re great, they’re at home.”
Looze said the meet will have an added degree of difficulty, given the team’s travel conditions.
“There is a Formula One race, so we’re staying an hour out of town — (hotel) rooms were unavailable,” Looze said. “We have to come into Dallas, drive on down — we’re staying in Temple, Texas. It’s going to be logistically challenging, as well as the competition.”
Looze said he is grateful for the opportunity to face off against Texas in a marquee matchup. Along with the Lone Star State rivalry meet, the Ohio State Invitational will be a critical test for the Hoosiers. Two historically dominant teams on both the men’s and women’s sides — Michigan and the University of Louisville — will face off against Indiana.
“We have a very challenging schedule; there are lots of top-ten teams, and those are the ones we want to perform the best at,” Looze said.
The men’s team looks to defend its Big Ten title, though repeating as conference champions will be far from easy.
“Whatever you did in the past is done — it’s over,” Looze said. “We’ve been operating with a target on our back recently, and I expect that’s going to continue. The men need to develop new depth.”
While the women’s program has consistently been a top team in the country, it has not enjoyed the same success as the men in recent years in the Big Ten.
“Our women want to win,” Looze said. “They’re tired of getting second or third. They mean business, and hopefully, our freshmen and our sophomores can contribute at a high clip and our veterans (as well). I’m very excited about their prospects and how hungry they are.”
Indiana hosts only three regular-season meets this season — Saturday, Oct. 29, versus the University of Missouri, Friday, Dec. 2, versus the University of Cincinnati, and Saturday, Jan. 14, versus Michigan. Looze encouraged fans to attend when the Hoosiers compete in Bloomington.
“If you come to a swimming and diving meet, you will be highly entertained,” Looze said. “It’s a great level of competition, and it’s a good show. We don’t have many meets, but when we fill the stands, it’s exciting – it’s great for us. I think it’s something that people should experience here.”