Swimmers aiming to repeat success under Sapp
Last season was a landmark one for Seton Hall’s swimming and diving teams.
On a brisk February weekend in Long Island this past winter, the men’s and women’s teams spent four days shattering school records at the Big East Championship. The women’s swimming and diving team set eight school records across a multitude of events, ultimately placing third overall, the best finish in program history. The men’s swimming and diving team kept up with the women and then some, setting seven school records, including one in each relay race, to secure its first Big East Championship trophy in program history.
But that was then, and right now the Pirates find themselves already assimilated into another season with two meets under both teams’ belts.
The Pirates have a new head coach, Derek Sapp, and 10 newcomers between the two teams. The time to reminisce on last season is over, and the Pirates are aware of that.
“I have completely erased last year from my brain,” sophomore Tyler Kauth said. “I don’t think about it; it’s a new year and I’m going to act as if we’ve never won one. If we hang onto last year too long, it’s too easy to get complacent.”
It may be hard to forget such an unforgettable season and finish, but Seton Hall is looking to leave last season in the rearview mirror in order to keep setting new records and improve as both individuals and a team.
“I think they want to repeat how last season felt,” Sapp said. “They’re reflecting on what happened last year, but realizing that was still last year. This is a new year with a different group, so I think they’re feeding off of that in practice and in the meets.”
The urge to not get complacent is something that resonates not only in Kauth, but in women’s sophomore swimmer Jordan Decker.
“Even with placing third last year [in the Big East Championship], we want to finish higher and higher, so our goal is to get at least second this year and then eventually try to defeat Villanova,” Decker said. “We know what we can do and we will be working harder and harder.”
Both teams find themselves 1-1 after the first two meets of the year. They both dropped their respective meets on Oct. 6 against UMBC, but collectively responded with victories the next day against Rider.
Kauth and Decker are both letting their actions speak even louder than their words, with Kauth winning both the 200-yard medley against UMBC and the 200-yard backstroke against Rider, and Decker taking first place a bevy of times, playing a part in six event wins, including the 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley relay on both days.
Both of them have noticed differences in the coaching style of Sapp and are seeing how their new training methods have had an impact on their performances.
“I think he’s been making the adjustment really well,” Kauth said. “If there was doubt on what we were doing that was different I think it was blown away because we all swam so well.”
“He has been with the program for a while and was my individual coach last season, so my training has stayed consistent,” Decker added. “I think he’s done a good job and it’s been shown by how the team performed.”
Sapp, who served as an assistant coach with the Pirates for the last four seasons, has seen improvements across the board, while also seeing a change in the way he now has to coach.
“There are some things that I have had to think about that I didn’t have to last year, but I’m enjoying the transition,” Sapp said. “I recruited a lot of the kids who are now on the team this year and it’s helped that I was able to get them here, and now it seems comfortable being with them and them being with me, so that’s definitely helped the transition.”
Time will tell if Seton Hall has what it takes to reproduce the record-setting Big East finishes of last year. So far, though, the Pirates have not missed a beat.
Matt Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattS_Lamb.