PITTSBURGH—As Duquesne women’s swimming coach David Sheets concluded his speech, he could not help but offer an introduction.
“Welcome to Towers Pool,” he began. “Home of the 2018 Atlantic 10 Swimming and Diving Champions.”
As a banner was unveiled commemorating the championship, the first in program history, a celebration commenced as part of an event which brings the alumni swimmers, or “swammers” as they are referred to by the program back on campus.
Swimming season is well under way as the team has practiced for six weeks now with the end goal being a repeat of last season’s success.
This season, Duquesne was predicted to place first in the Atlantic 10 Swimming & Diving Preseason Poll.
“I would say we’ve started this season very excited and ready to attack it,” senior swimmer Abby Stauffer said. “We do not want to stay complacent or too comfortable. We know we have to work just as hard if not harder to be back at the top again. We were picked to win in the preseason and that adds a little bit of pressure but we aren’t really worried about that, it is more about what we can do to get where we want to be in February.”
All four of the team’s graduating seniors from last season returned for the alumni meet and other swammers participated as well, while over a dozen others watched from the stands.
The event allowed for a few heats of each stroke with shorter distances, generally 100 meters for the current swimmers and 50 meters for alumni.
“As far as our team and watching them swim, we have a lot of work to do,” said Sheets. “It’s early in the season, so we’ve got some things we’ve got to work on, but I told them at the beginning before we started, that I just wanted them to get up and race every time they swim. If we can get that out of them, then I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”
It was fairly apparent in the meet that the swimmers are not reaching their best times, which had Sheets reminding himself that the season has only recently started.
“We’re not going to be where we were in February,” he said. “Sometimes you lose track of that. The aged coach in me says it is not possible but the competitive coach in me wants us to be competitive now.”
Stauffer also conceded as much but expressed confidence that the team will be ready for A-10’s come Feb. 20.
“You wonder sometimes now how you’re going to get faster but it’s just trusting the process,” Stauffer said. “I am now a senior, so I know what to expect, I don’t get too worked up about preseason times as long we are putting the work in.”
Sheets did admit in his speech that the feeling of winning the championship has not gotten old and later maintained his February remarks of promising to accomplish the feat as often as possible.
This season there are six freshmen who have joined the swimming team in Mia Beyerl, Hanna Everhart, Cassie Holstein, Lauren Ober, Sophia Perez and Audrey Steen while there are three newcomers on the diving team with Ashley Dias, Katie Schumann and Adrienne White.
“I think for the most part they are working hard,” Sheets said of the freshmen. “There are still some things they need to understand about our program, we’re working on that. There is no doubt about their work ethic and that is something we can build off of.”
One thing that Sheets and his staff will have to figure out is who swims what events. With the upperclassmen, that is fairly easy to figure out but for the freshmen there is plenty of versatility so it will come down to points and where they can be scored.
Duquesne opens its season Saturday in Youngstown, OH.
Though Duquesne has long insisted on taking everything one day at a time, last season’s success has the team hungry for more.
“We always knew what it took but we may not have had the right timing, resources or teammates in place at 100% because that is what it takes,” said Stauffer. “Now that we’ve seen what winning feels like, we have to build off of that. It really takes everyone on the team doing their part together and giving 100% at the right time.”