PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania women’s swimming and diving team will open the 2015-16 season this weekend with matchups against Columbia and UMBC. The Quakers will hit the road to begin the new campaign, taking on the conference-foe Lions on Friday (3 p.m.) and then the Retrievers on Saturday (2 p.m.).
Penn enters the 2015-16 campaign after finishing fourth in the Ivy League last season, and notching the most points (952) at the conference championships since 2008.
Amongst some of the notable returners for Penn this season are sophomore Virginia Burns, and juniors Ellie Grimes and Rochelle Dong -- all of which either won an Ivy title or broke school records last season.
Burns earned Penn’s lone Ancient Eight crown in 2014, topping the field at Harvard in the 500-free. Grimes and Dong also put together stellar efforts at the conference championships, combining to break three school marks. Grimes set records in the 200 and 400 IM, while Dong broke her own mark in the 50-free. Dong’s swim in the 50-free also earned her second-team All-Ivy honors.
In addition, Dong and Burns, along with junior Haley Wickham teamed up for a second-place finish in the 400-medley relay at last year’s Ivy championships.
Dong and Grimes also hold program records from the 2014 season. Dong is currently owner of four relay records and also the fastest mark in the 100-fly, while Grimes brandishes the best time in the 200 breast.
Scouting the Lions...
Columbia will also be opening up its season on Friday afternoon. The Lions are coming off a fifth-place finish at last year’s Ivy League Championships. Columbia finished with 182 points less than Penn, but ahead of Brown, Dartmouth and Princeton.
Columbia is a relatively young bunch, led by just four seniors. Christina Ray is one of them and will return to the Lions after setting the school record in the 100 fly, and also breaking a Columbia-pool (Uris Pool) mark in the 50 free last season.
Scouting the Retrievers...
This will be the fourth dual meet for UMBC this season, and fifth time overall they will be in action. The Retrievers have recorded a 2-1 record thus far in 2015-16, nabbing wins over Rider and George Washington. UMBC won the America East championship last year for the first time since 2011.
Junior Emily Escobar, the reigning America East Swimmer of the Year, leads the way for the Retrievers. She notched three conference championships (200 IM, 100 Breast, 200 Breast) last season, and is currently the league’s Swimmer of the Week after an impressive effort in a tri-meet with Gardner-Webb and Virginia Tech last weekend.