In a swimming and diving roster where 24 of the 42 athletes are underclassmen – including 16 of 21 on the women’s team – leadership is needed. With many newcomers and emerging talents eager to take over, the clash of ideology can sometimes occur with juniors and seniors who are established and looking to, in many cases, cap their careers.
Despite this gap in age, coach Derek Sapp explained that from seniors to freshmen, the teams have come together.
“The seniors on the men’s and the women’s teams have great leadership because they know where the freshmen are coming from,” Sapp said. “Because they’ve been in that unknown before.”
There is no denying the experience of the veterans on both the men’s and women’s teams, with the men’s side coming off of a Big East Championship and the women coming off a program-best third place Big East finish. On the back of those punctuations to last year, both teams had high expectations coming into this year.
The men’s team holds a record of 6-7, with Big East wins over Xavier and Villanova, while the young women’s team has compiled four wins, most recently against Fairfield on Jan. 14.
If Sapp has been proud of one thing during his first season in charge, it would be the way his newest athletes have adjusted over the course of the late fall and winter.
“Freshmen and sophomores have done a really good job stepping up and racing against really quality opponents and not backing down from it,” Sapp said.
This was on display in the underclassmen’s performance against powerhouse Yale on Jan. 19. On the women’s side, sophomore Jordan Decker won the 50-yard freestyle race, touching the wall at 24.68. Meanwhile, sophomore Josh Tosoni won the men’s 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 57.55.
Tosoni said afterward that the win against Yale “helped because it showed that we could win some races.”
The upperclassmen showed leadership as well against Yale, with Sara Ouellette winning the women’s 200-yard backstroke in 2:04.34 and Lexi Kolodgie winning the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:24.34.
“Against Yale, everyone swam really well,” Sapp said. “I love the attitude and positivity that everyone had throughout the meet.”
As the season nears its end, both teams aim to finish strong and perhaps make another run in the Big East Tournament. The two teams will face Georgetown and Providence at the Berkeley Aquatics Tri-Meet on Feb. 3 in New Providence, N.J. Following that is a chance for the men to repeat and the women to potentially take one step further in the conference championship from Feb. 21 to 24.
With a little under a month separating the Pirates from their trip to Geneva, Ohio for the Big East Tournament, Sapp feels confident about the end of the season.
“We’re hitting it at the right time going into the tail end of our duel meeting and the Big East,” said Sapp.
Mat Mlodzinski can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Mlodzinski_15.