The Wildcats held a 151-132 lead going into day two of the competition. Following Friday night's action, Arizona is in first place with 361 points while Auburn is second with 244. The three-day event will run through Saturday night on the campus of Ohio State University.
Auburn trailed Arizona by 32 points last year heading into the final day and trailed Georgia by 53 points in 2006 on the way to the championship.
"Today was a very tough day for us," said Coach Richard Quick. "I take full blame for not preparing the team to perform better.
"We had some great swims from Ava Ohlgren in the 400 IM and Emily Kukors in the 200 free, but I think our 800 free relay is an example of how things are going. You come in ranked first and end up eighth."
Ohlgren had the top performance for the Tigers on Friday as she finished second in the 400 individual medley. She swam a time of 4:04.07 to break her school record by .01 of a second, but finished second in an event she won last year as a freshman.
The relays are normally result in big points for the Tigers, but that was not the case. The Tigers opened the Friday night session by taking fifth place in the 200 medley relay in a time of 1:38.35. Margo McCawley, Kara Denby, Alana Dillette and Emile Ewing were well off the pace set by Arizona of 1:35.29.
The night finished on a more disappointing note as the 800 freestyle relay team of Ohlgren, Marik Kukors and Maggie Bird swam at 7:06.61 for eighth place while Arizona won in a time of 6:58.69.
Kukors finished fourth in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:44.47.
Auburn won a pair of consolation finals. Denby swam a 59.99 in the 100 breaststroke to become just the second Tiger to go under one minute in that event in a personal-best time.
In the 100 backstroke Marik won the consolation finals in 53.51.
Co-head coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker said, "Tomorrow is going to be a real test of our character. This team has not been in this kind of situation in some time. We have a young group and at times I think they tried too hard to get back into it."