The Seton Hall men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams traveled to Geneva, Ohio to take part in the annual Big East Championship from Feb. 21 to 24. Both squads are looking to replicate, or even surpass, the success each had last year.
The men will try to repeat as champions, last year notching Seton Hall’s first-ever victory in the Big Championship. On the women’s side, it will be of almost equal difficulty to rival last season’s mark, as the women put up a third-place finish, also the best in program history.
Heading into the whirlwind four days, the men’s team sits at 9-7 overall and 4-1 in conference play, while the women are 6-11 overall and 2-3 in conference play. Nevertheless, both teams are riding a win streak heading into the tournament, with the men at three straight victories and the women at two straight.
Head coach Derek Sapp was impressed with the recent performances but understands that despite the overall results, swimming can largely be interpreted on times and individual play.
“Their performances definitely help build confidence going into the Big East Championship,” Sapp said. “The other aspect is looking at everyone’s times coming off of those meets. Swimming is a unique sport in that way; you can lose a meet but it can still be very successful based on times.”
This season, with Sapp stepping up from assistant to head coach, much of the tactics have revolved around similar principles to last year, but there have been changes.
“We have implemented some changes, but there are definitely a few things we are doing in the same method we used last year,” Sapp said. “We tweak things and change things while leaving others the same.”
Sapp places a lot of trust in his team and wants his players to have fun more than anything else. Despite how the numbers may appear on the standings sheet, Sapp believes the team is in a solid position, and as is often the case, the stats never tell the full story.
“I am most looking forward to seeing who is going to rise to the occasion,” Sapp said. “We have a great mix of upper and underclassmen. Seeing that dynamic grow throughout the season is always really cool.”
Among the players expected to play a large part at this year’s championship is sophomore Tyler Kauth. At last year’s competition, Kauth set three personal records in the 100-yard backstroke, the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard individual medley. In addition to individual honors, Kauth also picked up wins in the 400-yard medley relay and the 800-yard freestyle relay.
Despite the heightened stakes, a calm Kauth is demonstrating his trust in his teammates and viewing this week as any other week.
“This year it’s about remembering how we made [last year] all possible as a team,” Kauth said. “No changes on our part, just business as usual.”
Further, Kauth has abandoned all his personal goals in favor of team goals. For him, repeating as team champions is the ultimate goal.
“If myself getting dead last in everything I swam were to, for some odd reason, benefit the team, I would gladly do it,” Kauth said.
Perhaps the elevated sense of team loyalty comes from the bond the members have formed outside of the pool. The team, both men and women integrated, can often be seen in the school cafeteria or around campus smiling and laughing.
“There is no doubt that the camaraderie on the team adds to the success that we have had,” Kauth said. “Everybody is building each other up and getting each other hyped to win their next race. Nobody is left behind. That’s a big part of the reason why we have been so successful of late.”
With the team united and a year of preparation in the books, nothing is left for the Seton Hall swimming and diving team other than to chase that ultimate goal of more history at the Big East Championship.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KMKTNF.