Nov. 1, 2006
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue's nationally ranked swimming and diving teams hit the road this weekend to battle regional and conference rivals Notre Dame and Northwestern. Purdue's men's team is ranked 23rd at 1-0, and the women are ranked 25th at 0-1.
The Boilermakers first travel to South Bend Friday to take on the Fighting Irish men's and women's teams, which are ranked 17th and 20th, respectively. Saturday, Purdue faces an eighth-ranked Northwestern men's team and a women's squad that's receiving votes in the season's first CSCAA poll.
Purdue beat both schools last season. The men beat Northwestern 171-129 and Notre Dame 182-118, while the women beat the Wildcats 208-92 and the Fighting Irish 172-128.
This year's results could be different as the opposition appears to be much stronger on paper than in year's past.
The Wildcat women are hungry for a win after starting their season at 0-2 with losses to No. 1 California and No. 17 Indiana. The most intriguing races are the freestyle, which pits Andrea Hupman vs. Susan Hentschel, and the butterfly, which features Katie Braun vs. Carlene Takaki.
Hupman has posted the Big Ten's best times in the 100 and 200 free with Hentschel not too far behind. Hupman, this season, has already swum a 1:48 in the 200 and a 50.29 in the 100 free. Hentschel's top season marks are 51.02 and 1:50.92.
Takaki is the conference's top competitor in the 100 fly at 54.90 and is No. 3 in the 200 fly at 2:01.47. Braun has registered top season marks of 55.46 and 2:02.10.
"Every week there's a race we know we need to be ready for, and we use the Big Ten top times list simply as extra motivation," said assistant coach Darlene Renie. "There are key competitors on both teams so our swimmers need to be on every time they dive in."
What could help the Boilermakers against the Wildcats is the abscene of 2006 Big Ten champion diver Chelsea Davis, who transferred to Ohio State. Purdue proved their worth on the diving boards last weekend, sweeping the top three spots off each springboard against Arizona State.
The Northwestern men are 1-0 following their win over 12th-ranked Indiana, 163.5-136.5, as is Notre Dame, which beat up on Texas A&M, 169-129.
"Can we win both duals this weekend? Yes. But will we? That's what we're going to find out," said men's head coach Dan Ross. "We're going to have a very close meet with Notre Dame. They have a big roster, which gives them lots of options while we're limited to the guys on our travel squad. This is their first big home meet of the year so we expect a hostile environment."
Ross and his team enter this weekend focused on Notre Dame, but can't ignore a Northwestern team, which could be head coach Bob Groseth's best in a long time. The Wildcats are led by the veteran trio of Matt Grevers, Mike Alexandrov and Kyle Bubolz that combined for six All-America titles, which included a national championship for Grevers in the 100 back.
Northwestern placed fourth in both the 200 and 400 medley relays at last year's NCAAs, but could be stronger this year with the addition of junior transfer Bruno Barbic from Washington.
The Purdue men certainly will be challenged by Notre Dame divers, Scott Coyle, Michael Bulfin and Sam Stoner, who held their own against Aggie All-American Eric Sehn.