The 2017 Big East Swimming and Diving Championship begins on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and the Seton Hall Pirates are looking to make their presence known.
Last season, the men’s team finished in third behind the Georgetown Hoyas and the champion Xavier Musketeers. This season, the Hall has a chance to win it all.
“We’re all very excited,” said junior Cody Wimmer. “This is one of the first times that we’ve actually had the chance to come in and potentially be champions of the Big East.”
“I think there is a nervous excitement,” coach Ron Farina said. “Some of them are a little sore or a little tired, but that excitement level is beginning to build and beginning to rise.”
In order to place ahead of the Xavier Musketeers, who have won the Big East Championship in each of the last three seasons, Wimmer said that the team needs to focus on the smaller picture.
“If we focus on the individual races, that is how we’re going to knock them off,” Wimmer said. “That’s how they come in. They approach it as ‘I will do whatever I can to get my hand on the wall before you do.’ That’s how they are so successful – they don’t look at the big picture, they look at the individual acts that make the big picture.”
Farina said that this squad has a chance at the Championship because of their depth. “We have a lot of opportunities and a lot of guys who can win races,” Farina said. “There’s not much of a difference between our No. 1 guy and our No. 17 guy.”
The women’s squad is also looking to place in the top three at the Big East Championship. Expectations are a bit more tempered for the women’s side, as Farina stated that he thinks they are a year or two away from being able to compete with the reigning champion Villanova Wildcats.
“The girls have a chance to move up from fourth, which they’ve been in every year since I’ve been here,” said junior Sydney Simpson. “It would be awesome, and such a big accomplishment for us.”
Simpson, who won the 100m breaststroke at last year’s Big East Championship, said that in order for the team to take that extra step into the top three, they need more people to place in the finals.
“We’ve had a lot of good places,” Simpson said. “We just need to make sure that [the swimmers] don’t end up 17th instead of 16th so they get the chance for the second swim to move up and get those extra points.”
“As long as the women stay focused and swim like they’re capable of, they’ll have some great swims,” Farina said.
The Pirates had nearly a month off in preparation for the tournament; the last meet was the Bucknell Invitational on Jan. 28. Despite the long time off, the Pirates still feel ready to compete.
“I think it’s a good thing that we have this time off because it’s getting us mentally prepared,” Wimmer said. “We’re antsy, we’re ready to get up and race again.”
Simpson echoed this sentiment, and said “We’ve been pushing ourselves a lot more than we can when we have meets every week. Now that we are starting to rest, we’ll be able to have more energy when it comes to the actual meet.”
The Big East Championship will run from Wednesday, Feb. 22 to Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, NY.
“We’ve raced against every one of those teams, so there’s no surprises,” Farina said. “We just need to do what we’ve been doing all year.”
Matt Lapolla can be reached at email@example.com or @MatthewLapolla.