Vanderbilt women’s swimming made their season debut this Friday when they visited Fayetteville to face off against the Arkansas Razorbacks and Drury Panthers at the Arkansas Natatorium.
The event kicked off head coach Jeremy Organ’s 16th season in charge of the Commodores. He’s joined by assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Chelsea Bailey, who enters her third season with the Commodores.
Over the weekend at the Arkansas Natatorium, the Commodores secured a 142-118 win over Drury, but fell in a 163-97 decision to the Razorbacks.
The event began with a second-place finish in the 200-yard medley (1:43.67) with freshman Clare Vetkoetter anchoring a third-place finish in the 1,000-yard freestyle. Across the rest of the roster, sophomore Eleanor Beers finished in fourth place in the 200-yard freestyle (1:53.48), fourth in the splash-and-dash (23.92) and second in the 100-yard freestyle (52.29). Elsewhere, Tonner Debeer came in third place in the 100-yard backstroke, with Alina Stout (2:07.67) finishing fourth in the 200-yard backstroke. Francesca Neubauer (1:05.40) and Lizzy Colwell (1:06.04) achieved fourth and fifth-place finishes in the 100-yard breaststroke as well.
“The team had such good energy—it really set the tone for the rest of the season,” Bailey told The Hustler. “It was good to see the girls racing and having fun. It was a good tone-setter for the rest of the season.”
Freshman Mercedes Traba was one swimmer that stood out, as she finished fourth in the 200-yard butterfly (2:09.23) before winning the 500-yard freestyle (5:04.61).
“Mercedes was in a fight the entire time between her and an Arkansas swimmer. It was back and forth the whole time, and she dug down deep and was able to pull out a win. That really electrified the team, just to see her come out on top,” Bailey added about the freshman’s performance.
The Commodores had a limited 2020-21 schedule due to COVID-19, but were able to squeeze in four matches—all of which came on the road. Vanderbilt struggled to an 0-4 regular season record before heading to Atlanta, Georgia, for the SEC Championships. Over the four-day event from Feb. 17 to Feb. 20, the Commodores finished 10th out of 12 SEC squads on day one, and 12th on the last three days of the championship.
Last year, Organ explained to The Hustler that the team appreciated Vanderbilt’s efforts to make a season happen in a year when several colleges and universities around the U.S. decided to not field various sports teams due to COVID-19. Bailey added to the sentiment that last year was a difficult one for everyone on the team, but she is looking towards the future.
“The girls are just so excited to have more of a normal year,” she said. “Everybody felt the effects of the COVID year, but having the opportunity to have a normal season this year—they’re hungry.”
Organ and Vanderbilt fared better in the full 2019-20 season, when they finished 6-6. The Commodores were able to defeat Milwaukee, Campbell, Little Rock, Marshall, North Florida and Ouachita Baptist and also set 14 personal records and a school record in the 100-meter breaststroke at the SEC Championships.
This season, Vanderbilt has four matches left on deck—as of now—consisting of Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU), Illinois, Tulane and Miami. The Commodores will welcome Illinois and Tulane to Nashville, while traveling on the road to Arkansas, FGCU and Miami.
Bailey and the team are excited about the prospect of hosting an event this year, something they didn’t get to do in their full-road slate in the 2020-21 season.
“We have a home meet on October 30 [against Illinois], which will be our breast cancer awareness event,” she said. “The girls are really stoked to have a home meet and have the opportunity to swim in front of fans, which last season we didn’t have.”
Organ welcomes back a veteran-laden squad with nine seniors on his 2021-22 team: Lauren Thomas, Hanako Batt, Whitney Brown, Abby Burke, Lizzy Colwell, Tonner DeBeer, Francesca Neubauer, Krislyn Porter and Gabriela Seberger. The group will look to continue to steer the Commodores in the right direction. For Organ and Bailey, there’s a lot of trust in this group to do so.
“It’s nice to have such a big group of seniors. We don’t have captains, we have a leadership board and this year it is all of our seniors,” Bailey explained. “They’ve done such an amazing job of creating team bonding and different activities. It’s really nice to have such a strong group of girls that are focused on empowering people and empowering the team.”
The Commodores will travel to Fort Myers, Florida, to take on Florida Gulf Coast in their next match on Oct. 16t at 11 a.m. CDT.