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Tuesday Talk: Swim-Dive chases team gold again at MIACs

The competition will have a new format, with the traditional three-day meet spread over four days.

But when the MIAC Swim-Dive Championships starts its Thursday evening through Sunday night run at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, St. Thomas will attempt to provide the familiar feel by setting the pace in the team races.

The Tommie men have won four consecutive MIAC team titles, and six of the last nine. The St. Thomas women have claimed the team crown three years in a row. Both teams are bracing for good battles this week.

Here's a look at some of the leaders for the Purple and Coach Scott Blanchard:

  • Senior Katelyn Strauss will attempt to win the 200 fly for the fourth year in a row. She's also the returning champ in the 100 fly and 500 free. Strauss has been a part of 15 MIAC relay/individual crowns so far on her conference-meet career.
  • Senior Alex Howard was a two-event winner individually as a sophomore in February 2017 and is a 10-time career relay winner; she'll have another busy week on relays and other races;
  • Ashley Christensen will attempt to repeat as champion in the 100 breaststroke;
  • Kirsten Nelson will look to win again in the 200 back.
  • Tom Negaard swept the 50 and 100 free races last season as a junior, and is looking to close out his career here and at nationals on a high note. He's already been a part of nine relay/individual crowns in his three seasons, with five other top-three placings.
  • Max Larson will attempt to win his third consecutive 400 IM championship.

On the men's side, St. Thomas expects a strong challenge from Gustavus. The Tommies have a league-best 37 performances ranked in the top five of the conference in individual swim races.

On the women's side, St. Thomas expects strong challenges from St. Catherine and Gustavus. The Tommies will need to rely on depth as they have a league-best 47 performances ranked in the top 10 of the conference in individual events. That includes nine top-three seeds, plus one top-ranked relay.

Thursday has an evening session for men's diving and two relay finals for both men and women on the U of M campus near Dinkytown. Friday and Saturday will feature 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. sessions, with Sunday's schedule set for 10:30 and 5:30 p.m.

 

Did You Know?

Out of 277 NCAA hockey teams of both genders at all levels, just two are unbeaten: the UW-Stevens Point men (23-0-2) and the St. Thomas women (21-0-2).

 

Hot Winter teams

Michael Rand of the Star Tribune newspaper gave a brief shout out to the Tommie winter teams in part of his Monday sports page 2 column. You can access it here.

The Tommies' four men's and women's hockey and basketball teams went unbeaten in 44 games from Jan. 1 through Feb. 7. They are a combined 56-3-5 since Dec. 1.

in MIAC play this winter those four teams are a combined 54-3-7, and overall are 77-8-7; they are 32-2-2 in home games since Dec. 1.

Those teams' eight season losses include four against nationally-ranked teams.

All four squads have reached the MIAC playoffs together for the 13th consecutive season, and both basketball teams have locked up first-round byes as top-two seeds.

 

Streaks

  • Tommie WBB has 70 consecutive wins over MIAC opponents, 21 consecutive home wins, and 12 season wins in row;
  • Tommie MBB had a streak of 21 season wins in row end at home with Saturday's 88-86 loss to Augsburg;
  • Tommie WH has an NCAA-leading 36-game unbeaten streak (29-0-7), including a 13-0-5 finish to last season;
  • Tommie MH had a 13-game unbeaten streak (9-0-4) end last Friday;
  • Tommie MH secured the program's 37th consecutive winning season;
  • Tommie MBB has secured an MIAC title share, 13th title in last 14 seasons, and with one win can claim the crown outright;
  • Tommie MBB has qualified for the MIAC playoffs for the 20th consecutive season;
  • Tommie MH has made the MIAC playoffs all 34 seasons the format has been in place;
  • Tommie WH is in the MIAC playoffs for the 19th consecutive season.
 
Individuals
  • Senior center Hannah Spaulding leads all NCAA women's basketball players in field-goal shooting at 71.4 percent, and will break a 26-year-old MIAC record for career shooting as she's currently near 69 percent;
  • Senior hockey goalie Kenzie Torpy has broken an MIAC record for career wins by a women's goalie with 65 (Gustavus' Danielle Justice recorded 63 wins from 2008-12);

 

NCAA Division III National Polls

St. Thomas is currently ranked nationally in seven winter/spring sports: 

  • Women's Hockey (No. 1) 
  • Women's Basketball (No. 3)
  • Men's Basketball (No. 6) 
  • Softball (No. 7) (39-8 last season)
  • Men's Track and Field (No. 21)
  • Women's Swim-Dive (No. 23)
  • Men's Golf (No. 25)
  • Men's Hockey is receiving votes just out of the top 15 poll.

Football (No. 15/18), Men's Soccer (No. 12), Women's Soccer (No. 19) and Men's Cross Country (No. 31) closed their fall seasons ranked. 

Women's Hockey made school history last week by climbing all the way to No. 1 in the U.S. College Hockey Online Division III poll. That's a first in the 21-year-history of the program. Coach Tom Palkowski's team started the year at No. 10 in the poll then moved to No. 9, then 8, then 7, then 5, then 4, then 3, then 2 and now reached No. 1.

 

Miscellaneous

  • The No. 1-ranked Tommie Women's Hockey team has 14 players with cumulative grade-point averages between 3.50 and 4.00.
  • The No. 3-ranked Tommie Women's Basketball team has a 3.74 cumulative grade-point averages with its starting five.
  • Out of 1,000 NCAA institutions at all three levels, Gonzaga and St. Thomas were the first this season to have 20-win teams in both men's and women's basketball. 
  • Tommie WBB's 70-game win streak against conference opponents is second longest current streak in all of NCAA basketball, behind only U Conn Huskies (111-0 all time against American Athletic Conference opponents).
  • MBB senior Michael Hannon has made 39 consecutive free throws dating back to February 2018.

 

Up Next

Ten Tommie teams compete in a five-day span from Feb. 13-17:

  • Men's and Women's Swim-Dive competes Thursday through Sunday in the MIAC Championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center;
  • Men's Tennis plays an alumni scrimmage Saturday in Anderson Fieldhouse;
  • Track and Field athletes compete Friday at the Gopher Men's Snowshoe Open; the Saturday Men's Tostrud Classic; and the Saturday Women's U of M Gopher Parents' Day meet; 
  • Women's Basketball plays Wednesday night at home against St. Ben's, and Saturday afternoon at St. Mary's; Men's Hoops plays at No. 15-ranked St. John's on Wednesday night, and travels to Winona for the Saturday afternoon game against St. Mary's;
  • Women's Hockey plays two against No. 4-ranked Hamline -- Friday night in Mendota Heights and Saturday afternoon in downtown St. Paul;
  • Men's Hockey plays two against Hamline, Friday night in downtown St. Paul and Saturday night on home ice in Mendota Heights;
  • Women's Tennis plays St. Catherine Saturday morning at the University of Minnesota's Baseline courts.

 

Women's Stat of the Week

Rachel Werdin has 12 goals and three assists in her last 12 games for the top-ranked Women's Hockey team. The Toms are 25-1-1 in games on her career when she scores a goal.

 

Men's Stat of the Week.

Tommie Men's Swim-Dive will attempt to win the program's fifth consecutive conference team crown this weekend at the four-day MIAC meet. Another Purple victory would equal the Tommies' five-year title run at this meet from 1947 through 1951.

 

Tennis

The Tommie Men (2-0) used nine players and scored a 9-0 win over host Dubuque and an 8-1 victory over St. Ambrose last Saturday. They play an alumni team in a scrimmage Saturday afternoon in the AARC. They face St. Mary's on Feb. 23.

The Tommie Women (2-0) used eight players including four newcomers and scored a 9-0 win over host Concordia-Moorhead. They play another MIAC match next Saturday against St. Catherine, Saturday morning at the University of Minnesota's Baseline courts. 

 

Hockey

The Tommie men (13-5-5 overall, 7-2-5 MIAC) can finsh second, third or fourth in the standings and in the league playoff seeding. They play Hamline twice next weekend. Second-place Concordia has two game at first-place Augsburg, and fourth-place St. John's plays two against Gustavus.

The No. 1-ranked Tommie women (21-0-2 overall, 14-0-2 MIAC) can finish first or second in the playoff seeding. They play No. 4-ranked and once-beaten Hamline on both Friday and Saturday this weekend. They come into the decisive series with a two-point lead on the Pipers. One tie and one loss will give St. Thomas a share of the MIAC championship. A split, two ties or two wins give them the solo title and a No. 1 seed.

 

Basketball

The Tommie men (21-2 overall, 17-1 MIAC) play their final two regular-season games this week on the road. They have tied for the league crown and can win the solo championship by beating either St. John's on Wednesday night in Collegeville; or topping St. Mary's on Saturday afternoon in Winona; or with one SJU loss this week.

The Tommie women (22-1 overall, 16-0 MIAC) have locked up at least a tie for the crown and can win a solo championship with either a home win Wednesday night against St. Ben's; a road win Saturday afternoon at St. Mary's; or one Augsburg loss this week. The Purple have secured the No. 1 seed for the MIAC playoffs.

 

Track and Field

St. Thomas is gearing up for the Feb. 22-23 MIAC Championship meet at St. Olaf. This weekend, many athletes will compete at either the St. Olaf men's meet on Saturday, or the Minnesota Gopher meets Friday (men) or Saturday (women).

The Tommie men have 14 performances ranked in the top 50 nationally, while the Purple women have seven.

On the MIAC indoor season list for men, the Tommies have 24 performances ranked in the top five (four first, five second, six third, four fourth, and five fifth).

On the MIAC indoor season list for women, the Tommies have 21 performances ranked in the top five (four first, five second, four third, three fourth, and five fifth).