The University of Wisconsin women's swimming and diving team has high hopes for the upcoming season with an already impeccable start this year.

Just last weekend, the Badgers finished third at the Southern Methodist University Classic in Dallas.

The team hopes to continue this streak with the upcoming meet this weekend in Arizona. After finishing in the top 15 for the fifth consecutive year in the NCAA Championships, head coach Eric Hansen hopes to finish even higher this year.

"Our whole season is geared around being better than we were last year at NCAA," Hansen said. "And that was the best we've ever been; it's the best the program has ever been."

With a balanced number of 16 returning swimmers and 14 newcomers, the Badgers have high expectations for the upcoming 2006-07 season.

The team has many powerful swimmers to watch out for, including junior freestyle swimmers Hannah McClurg and Jackie Vavrek, who both placed high at last year's Big Ten Championships.

Sophomore Jennifer Illescas, who was a finalist in freestyle heats at the 2005-06 national championship meet, can also be expected to help lead the girls to a top finish this season.

Sophomore swimmer Yi Ting Siow has already proven herself as a force for the team by breaking the Wisconsin record in the 200-yard breaststroke two weeks ago.

Wisconsin can anticipate an impressive season with a mix of both old and new talents in this year's lineup. Along with McClurg, Vavrek, Illescas and Siow, the Badgers return veteran swimmers Jenny Gelden, Susan Johnson and Andrea Wiesner.

"We have a lot of returning upperclassmen and incoming freshmen this year who will be key players this season," Hansen said.

With a strong roster, another top finish in the NCAA Championships this year is not far off due to the focus and hard work the team has been putting in since last year.

Even after an impressive end to the previous season, the team did not rest. In preparation for the upcoming 2006-07 season, the team has been practicing and training just as hard in the offseason in hopes of moving up in the conference.

Hansen has set high goals for all the swimmers this season, but, as seen in recent meets and previous seasons, the team seems willing and capable of achieving these goals.

"This season, we are hoping for all the girls to contribute and help out with the overall team goal, which is to move up at the NCAA level," Hansen said.