Men’s Swimming: Northwestern upset by improved Eastern Michigan squad

John Paschall, Reporter

The Wildcats were speechless Friday after a hungrier and more improved Eastern Michigan squad, one that Northwestern dismantled just last year, bested them in a hard-fought upset.

“They put their focus on us,” coach Jarod Schroeder said of the 157-141 defeat. “They wanted to take down a Big Ten team and hats off to them. They showed a lot more heart and grit during the races than we did.”

The loss cannot simply be pinned on slow times. In fact, the Wildcats were faster in almost every single event in last year’s decisive win over Eastern Michigan except the breaststroke. Schroeder said NU felt more ready coming into this season than they did last year.

“I don’t think our guys are very aware of what’s happening in a meet,” he said. “It was apparent to me after the medley relay. We went 1 minute 32 seconds last year and won by three seconds. We went 1 minute 31.1 seconds this year and their team went 1 minute 32 seconds. At that point I said to my assistants, ‘They’re a hell of a lot better this year. They’re going to be a lot faster this year than what they were last year.’”

Eastern Michigan didn’t let up there. After NU freshman Jordan Wilimovsky handily won the 1000 free, the Eagles went on to take the next three races. After the first diving break, the Eagles were ahead of the Cats by 9 points.

“Once that one race didn’t go the way it was supposed to be, we had a feeling of doubt on our side of the pool,” senior Alex Ratajczyk said. “… When we were at the end of the first diving break, we were trying to get fired up but it wasn’t working and it snowballed.”

NU didn’t go down easily. With one diving and three swimming events to go, the Cats held a 1-point lead. But the Eagles closed the meet, winning three of the last four events and showing strong depth in each race.

“We didn’t look like we were Northwestern swimming and diving in the pool,” senior Charlie Rimkus said. “… It’s like a one-two punch, and then you’re saying, ‘Holy crap, what happened?’ We lost control of the meet, and they got fired up.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Cats. They welcome a strong Western Kentucky team to Evanston on Nov. 2, followed by a conference matchup with Purdue the next day. Schroeder said he hopes the Cats boost morale by doing a better job of cheering each other on during good swims.

“You have guys that are your typical alpha males who are there to get emotions out of people,” Schroeder said. “Some people are able to do that and some people don’t show a lot of emotion. The underclassmen didn’t follow suit as much as I’d like to see. A lot of it is their first experience, and they didn’t know what to expect. Now they do and hopefully we will be better for it.”