Through three days, UB's success in the MAC Women's Swimming and Diving Championships hinges on two factors: top-end dominance in individual events, and the depth of Akron, Bowling Green (and even EMU's divers) to score points as well.
UB continued their momentum in individual races today, adding a pair of championships from Spencer Rodriguez (400 IM, breaking her own school record) and Jess Powers (200 free). UB also got important individual points from two winners in consolation finals: Taylor Steffl (100 fly, NCAA B Cut), and Megan Burns (200 free), and Brittney Walters finished fourth in the 400 IM, as well.
Despite that, UB with one day to go in the competition sits 4th. And it's not all that surprising. I suspected in the preview link above that UB would have to near-sweep the individual and relay freestyle events to have a shot given their depth in the other disciplines. Not even Thursday's dominance changed that. After all, Spencer Rodriguez, Jess Powers, and Megan Burns have been three of UB's top performers all season long, and none of their championships last night was a particular surprise.
Today was a more complete picture of the state of the Women's Swimming and Diving team this season: UB has plenty of top-end talent, but just not enough depth and not enough divers to be considered a favorite. In dual meets, it's been enough to win against most MAC competition, but in a larger setting, other teams' #2 and #3 options are beating ours out.
That's not to say there wasn't more to celebrate for UB fans, though. Spencer Rodriguez' second individual championship of the meet came after qualifying for the top spot in the 400 IM and Jess Powers improved on her second-place finish in the prelims to win the 200 free. Paula Stoddard and Megan Burns also worked their way into the consolation finals of the 200, earning a combined ten more points for the Bulls thanks largely to Burns' ninth-place finish.
Those points were especially critical as UB got none from the 100 breast or 100 back, failing to qualify anyone for even the consolation finals. I had hopes of a top-five finish for Taylor Steffl in the 100 fly, but she finished 10th in the prelims. That proved to be simply a bad race when she matched Burns' effort in winning the consolation final. Steffl hit an NCAA B Cut there to earn nine further UB points. Had she been in the final, she would have finished fifth -- a five-point swing.
UB also finished seventh in the 400 medley relay, right around their seed. From UB's perspective, breaststroke depth has been killer this meet, and it seems in tonight's final event the race was separated by teams who got a strong breaststroke leg and those who didn't. UB closed with the third-fastest (Steffl) butterly leg and fastest (Burns, duh) freestyle leg, but still only finished seventh.
Presumably, UB slipped a bit in the 3-meter dive, but getting reliable results for this meet has been a nightmare, so who knows. Valerie Lortie and Abbey Croce were poised to earn some points, but Akron, Miami, and EMU were likely to dominate the event.
Rodriguez and Powers' conquests give Buffalo six conference championships in the meet's 12 races, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bulls add three more tomorrow between Burns (100 free), Powers (1650 free), and the 400 free relay.
Right now, UB is sitting 4th with 318 points, well within range of EMU (344) and BG (354), though likely unable to catch Akron (440). I do not believe that those numbers include the missing diving results, but I do still think Buffalo moves into third tomorrow.
The recipe for finishing as strong as possible is those three wins mentioned above, plus huge secondary points in the 1650 from Rodriguez and Miller (and Stoddard?), and at least finalists in the 200 back, breast, and fly races. Akron might be out of reach, but I am more than confident that the Bulls improve their standing in the final day of the meet.