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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Wisconsin heads into difficult battle against Trojans of USC

Immediately after a nine-day training trip to Hawaii that was equal parts relaxation and hard work, the unranked Wisconsin swim team is heading to the University of Southern California for a dual meet with the No. 7/No.9 Trojans on Monday to start the second half of their season.

Last year, the Trojans threw everything but the kitchen sink at head coach Whitney Hite and his team, and with a reloaded USC squad that includes multiple US National teamers and international Olympians, the Badgers are expecting to have their hands full.

USC is a team that’s rife with star power, but Wisconsin sophomore Beata Nelson says going head-to-head with the Trojans’ big names is a challenge the Badgers are up for.

“Our expectation is to go out and compete with them,” Nelson said. “This dual is another good opportunity to get race experience before championship season.”

On the women’s side, versatile USC sophomore Louise Hansson will provide the biggest challenge for the Badgers in the shorter events. The Swedish Olympian is a top-notch sprinter who uses her 6-foot-2 frame to her advantage when racing smaller athletes. In addition, USC also boasts 6-foot-1 freshman Marta Ciesla, who specializes in similar events to Hansson. The Badgers do not have any women over the 6-foot mark but are hoping to rely on the speed and precision of Nelson and juniors Jess Unicomb and Emmy Sehmann to counter Ciesla and Hansson’s size.

It’s not just their size that makes USC a formidable opponent. The Women of Troy are also a young, deep team in areas Wisconsin simply does not have top talent in. In addition to its top-tier sprinters, USC freshman Maggie Aroesty is one of the world’s fastest breaststrokers, and sophomore Becca Mann provides a wealth of the type of distance talent that the Badgers are struggling to find an answer for.

The biggest storyline for the Wisconsin women in this meet has nothing to do with USC’s current roster, though. Instead, it has to do with a former Trojan who’s now a Badger. Junior Sydney Lofquist transferred from USC to Wisconsin at the beginning of the school year in order to be closer to home, and has been a quiet but much-needed contributor for the Badgers all season. Monday’s meet will be the first time Lofquist competes against members of her former team, and she is expected to compete in the distance freestyle events.

For the men, a pair of redshirt senior Olympians headline the Trojans’ roster. Canadian Santo Condorelli and Trinidadian Dylan Carter have extensive international experience in a variety of events, but specialize mainly in sprint freestyle and butterfly. The Badgers likely will put up juniors Tyler Zelen and Jon Salomon as their top sprinters to compete against Condorelli and Carter in the shorter races.

In the backstroke and individual medley events, USC junior Patrick Mulcare was a swimmer the Badgers had little luck finding a match for last year. With the emergence of freshman Matthew Novinski as a top-tier backstroker this year and the continued improvement of senior Todd McCarthy, Wisconsin may have found its answer to one of USC’s biggest match up puzzles.

If Wisconsin wants to eke out a victory against the undefeated Trojans in their home pool, it will take a massive team effort and a swim-for-your-life mentality. It won’t be easy, but the Badgers are ready to invade Troy and go to battle.

The meet starts at 2 p.m. CT on Monday, Jan. 15 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast live by the Pac-12 Network.

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