Illinois swim & dive wraps up fall season with House of Champions Invitational

Illini swimmer, Suvana Baskar, swims backstroke during the Orange and Blue meet on Oct. 9. The Illini will be competing in Indianapolis on Thursday for the House of Champions Invitational.

Cameron Krasucki

Illini swimmer, Suvana Baskar, swims backstroke during the Orange and Blue meet on Oct. 9. The Illini will be competing in Indianapolis on Thursday for the House of Champions Invitational.

By Jonathan Alday, Staff Writer

After a short break, the Illinois women’s swim & dive team is set to return to competition, heading to Indianapolis for the House of Champions Invitational.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will host a variety of Division I and Division II schools from various conferences in the Midwest for its annual midseason competition. 

Competition begins on Thursday and ends on Saturday. Each day will feature preliminary heats, followed by diving events and ending with finals.

A strong performance is not guaranteed for the Illini, as many of the schools participating in this event have a cast of star athletes that have had extremely successful starts to their respective seasons.

Host IUPUI is 1-3 this season, having won against Lewis but losing to UW-Milwaukee, Rutgers and Indianapolis. This squad will be led by graduate student Caylee Hamilton, who owns the Horizon League’s best 50-yard freestyle time at 23.67. The Jaguars will be looking to end their losing skid with a strong performance at this contest.

Ball State University will enter the event 2-1 with wins over Eastern Illinois and Toledo and a close loss against Ohio. Sophomore Marcella Ribeiro is the program’s first MAC individual event champion since 2014 in the 1650-yard freestyle and was first-team All-MAC in the 2020-2021 season. 

Butler is 0-2 this season, losing to Bellarmine and Indianapolis. Butler will look to sophomore standout Grace Crane, who set four school records in her freshman campaign, and will look to push Butler over the hump and continue to etch their name in the school record books.

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is 3-1 with wins over Valparaiso, Youngstown State and St. Norbert and a loss to St. Thomas. Green Bay will look to continue its successes on the backs of freshmen Kaleigh Gale, Esther Oswald and Faith Eilertson, who have stayed consistently dominant in their events this season.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is traveling to Indianapolis 3-0 with wins against IUPUI, University of Illinois at Chicago and Wheaton. UW-Milwaukee sophomore diver McKenzie Sanchez, who qualified for NCAA Zone Diving Championships in the 2019-2020 season, will look to support her team as they finish their fall slate in this crucial midseason meet.

Lewis University is 4-3 on the season and coming off a loss against Findlay. Lewis will look to bounce back with the help of sophomore Larissa Alves, the Great Lakes Valley Conference Athlete of the Week.

The University of Indianapolis heads into the meet 4-1 and ranked No. 1 in Division II by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. Indianapolis will look to maintain its standing with the help of senior Johanna Buys, who led Indianapolis to a win in the UIndy Invite after winning three races with NCAA B-cut qualifying times.

University of Illinois at Chicago is 0-4 this season but looks to have a strong performance on the back of redshirt senior Cydney Liebenberg. Liebenberg holds school records in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives and has qualified for NCAA Zone C for the last four years. Liebenberg also is the first UIC diver to qualify for finals Zones and won three gold medals at the South African National Championships in 2021.

The Illini are 4-2 heading into the three-day contest and look to finish their fall season on a high note, showing much progress against quality competition. Illinois has been supported by freshmen Sydney Stoll and Molly Yetter, who have shown to be strong competitors in their first collegiate season while led by sophomores Lily Olson and Cara Bognar and senior Abby Cabush as they continue their successful Illinois careers.

Competition starts at 9 a.m. at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis on Thursday.

 

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