The Seton Hall swimming and diving teams will have a holiday hiatus in December before returning to the pool for the second half of their season in the spring.
It is a break from competition for the men’s and women’s teams, but the training will not stop.
Each team has been able to move past their historic finishes in March’s Big East Championships to become a hungrier, more determined team. The process has not been easy, but it is one they are committed to.
“Last year we had a team that was hungry to get better and improve every day both in and out of the water, and I think that has translated nicely to this year,” senior swimmer Noah Yanchulis said. “We have a great group of guys and girls who continue to push each other every day at practice towards our end goal, which is to win a Big East Championship.”
Yanchulis was one of four Pirates to most recently compete in the USA Swimming Winter Nationals in Columbus, Ohio from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. Yanchulis, as well as senior Vadim Jacobson and sophomore Josh Tosoni, represented Seton Hall on the men’s side, while senior Sydney Simpson represented the women.
In their respective heats, Yanchulis recorded a time of 1:37.87 in the 200-yard freestyle, while Jacobson recorded a time of 1:38.90 in the same event. Tosoni swam a 2:01.04 in the 200-yard breaststroke, which was good enough to qualify him – the only underclassmen of the four – to the event’s final.
The meet was a chance for the swimmers to see how they stacked up against elite competition during a part of the season in which the swimmers are still gaining their fitness. Still, team success overrides individual achievements while a Pirate. Keeping that in mind, the team makes sure to keep its driven mindset, especially over a long break.
“I think that [last year] is making us more driven, causing us to push each other more,” Simpson said. “The Patriot [Invitational] was a good test to see where we are in the season, as well as where we compare to the rest of the Big East. Everyone has things that they know they need to work on going into the break.”
Seton Hall began this season with a new head coach in Derek Sapp, who was an assistant on the coaching staff when the Pirates took home a Big East championship in the spring. Sapp has now transitioned to the head coaching role and Yanchulis noted that Sapp has handled the new challenges of the position.
“Overall the season has gone very well,” Yanchulis said. “People are working hard and swimming fast and he has done a great job handling the responsibilities of a head coach. He is put under a lot of stress, as are all head coaches, just with everything that it takes to lead a team, but he has handled it well.”
The Pirates have also been able to transition well due to unexpected members of the team – both veteran and young – stepping up. On the men’s side, Yanchulis noted that all three freshmen have made “an immediate impact.” He also said that senior Sean Sali has seen “unexpected success” so far after coming off multiple injuries.
On the women’s side, Simpson noted how important it is for not just the freshmen, but the team as whole to make up for factors such as injuries and replacing unavailable talent.
“We have a lot of injuries right now, so some people have had to do more events than they are used to, and they have been pushing themselves to stick with the people next to them, and it has resulted in some really fast times,” Simpson said. “I think that the freshman have filled in some gaps either that were left from the seniors last year or that were lacking. Some of them are also starting to show that the gaps left by this year’s class might not be there.”
With both teams understanding their objectives, December is a time to lay the groundwork for another run at Big East title. The Pirates will return to the pool on Jan. 13, when both teams compete in the Drexel Tri-Meet in Philadelphia.
Matt Lamb can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MattS_Lamb.