Fresh and Fun Faces Lift Pirate Expectations in the Water
GEORGETOWN, Texas - The Pirates kick off their season on Friday in a dual meet with rival Trinity. While the name on the suits remains the same the individuals wearing them, both newcomers and returners, are drastically different from last year's squad.
The men tout the largest team the University has seen with six returners and 10 newcomers. Leading the way is senior Stephen Montes who is the current record holder in the 1000 free and 1650 free. As the lone senior on the squad, Montes has been fortunate to have two juniors, Ivan Cruickshank and Adrian Gomez, who have also stepped to the plate to take on some of the leadership responsibilities. Sophomore transfer swimmers Ty Lapinski and Kyler Wood have extensive competitive experience and are expected to take the Pirate men's team to the next level.
"We have eight awesome first-years that bring a lot to the table and two transfers that are joining our team too," shares Head Coach Jon Duncan. "Our team on the men's side has completely changed for the better. We have doubled our team size and are really fired up about that going into this weekend."
The women return eight swimmers from last year's team that finished sixth at the conference meet, including Emily Haskell who had an outstanding first-year with the Pirates, finishing in second in the 100 breast and fourth in the 200 breast at the conference meet. "Emily made a name for herself with her performance at the conference meet last season and we are excited to see what she can do this year."
The women also have two seniors, Sarah McCausland and Melissa Nelson, who have taken on the leadership role and truly made it their own which has resonated well with the team. "The women have two great senior captains who have been a part of the program for four years now and they have really come into their own type of leadership and it has been great for this program," shares Duncan. "We are having success with recruiting because of it and are getting some great feedback from recruits who love the team and the atmosphere that we have. Even though we only have nine women this year they are a solid bunch that work hard and have something to bring to the table."
While the incoming class for the women is much smaller the impact can be just as profound as the Pirates welcome Jessi Winters into the mix. "We have an excellent first-year in Jessi and she brings a lot to the team on the women's side."
While leadership has always been a strength for the Pirates, Southwestern is taking a different approach to it this year that is working well and, when added to the raised training level, has elevated expectations and the excitement level in the pool. "The camaraderie on both sides has changed," states Duncan. "We had some great captains last year but we are switching roles and have a few juniors and seniors who are stepping up and moving the team in the right direction. They have also come back in better shape. We can do things now that we couldn't do until January last year. Our returners knew we had some fast swimmers coming in and worked even harder in the spring and summer. We are just at a different level and are really excited about that."
Southwestern opens competition with Trinity and are eagerly anticipating unveiling their new teams. "This meet will be very competitive on both sides," states Duncan. "We are going to turn some heads and give them a run for their money and that is something that, on the men's side, SU has never done."
Without many small Division III schools in the state the Pirates have the opportunity to really test the waters with experienced Division II and NAIA schools. "McMurry and UTPB will be great challenges for us and then a lot of teams go to the Southwest Shootout. That meet is a great halfway point for us to see where we are and what we need to change."
Overall, Coach Duncan is excited to see what the Pirates can deliver this season. "We have finally found a swimmer who is top in the conference in every event. If we can continue the training progress we are going in the right direction and be where we want to be going into the conference championships."