The Big East Championship is only a few days away for the Seton Hall men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, and for some, it will be their last time competing in it. With a combined nine seniors set to depart after this season, this year’s championship will be an emotional meet for the Pirates.
For the men, it provides them with the opportunity to win a third consecutive Big East Championship and their second under coach Derek Sapp. Only Xavier and Pittsburgh have ever accomplished such a feat, but the caliber of talent on Seton Hall’s current roster is just as capable as its previous two championship winning teams.
Coming to Seton Hall six years ago, Sapp brought a winning mentality and has been able to transcend it into his teams. When asked to choose a favorite memory with this group of seniors, he struggled to pick just one.
“There’s been so many good moments over the course of their four years, whether it was the guys winning Big East for the first time, or on the women’s side last year swimming better than anybody, I think, could have expected at Big East,” Sapp said.
Ivan Michalovic and Courtney McCardle both fondly remember the overwhelming satisfaction of that first Big East title win in 2017.
“Just knowing that all of our hard work is paying off was so exciting” McCardle said when recalling the contagious excitement that night inside of the Nassau County Aquatic Center.
Beyond the accolades though, Sapp and Michalovic both believe the senior class’ legacy lies within the culture that they have instilled in the locker room. A lack of seniors on the team in Michalovic’s freshman year meant there was a lack of team culture. This, however, was the primary focus of his class during their four years with Seton Hall’s program, however.
“We really had to build it from the ground up,” Michalovic said. “Just letting [the underclassmen] know that if they stay the course and really stick together, everything tends to work out in the end.”
For Sapp, the group’s ability to always put a positive spin on anything has been the glue to both teams’ recent success. Seeing beyond the early morning meets and grueling practice sessions for the sake of the team’s ultimate goal goes a long way in overcoming the mental challenges of swimming and diving at the collegiate level. It is a mindset that has deeply rooted itself within the underclassmen and is an attribute that Sapp hopes will carry over with each incoming class of swimmers and divers.
As proud as Michalovic and McCardle are of the tight knit unity they helped build within the team though, it is the hardest part to let go after this year.
“Just being around the team, it’s like a family” McCardle said. “We all just push each other to do better, and the feeling of knowing people have your back is just nice.”
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Sousa7474.