As the holiday season begins, the Springfield College mens and womens swimming and diving teams first half is over. There have been ups and downs for both teams this season but both finish with similar records. The men have worked their way to a 1-6 start and the women have been a but better, owning a 2-6 record. Despite the losses, there has been much improvement on both teams and signs of promising things to come moving forward.
It has been a tough season for the men’s team to start but that doesn’t mean that things have only been bad. Looking to start out the season on a positive note, the men dropped a close meet to Coast Guard by a final score of 149-132 on October 27. The Springfield men got their first win of the season on November 17 in dominating fashion; defeating Keene State 198-101 to improve to 1-5 on the season.
From there, the Springfield men looked to add to an impressive victory by heading to Ithaca, New York for the annual Ithaca Invitational. They finished fourth during the first days of the tournament before ending up in seventh place overall after the final day..
Back from Ithaca, the Pride took on Middlebury at home where they fell again, 156-138. Despite the losing, head coach John Taffe still sees positives in this young team that no longer has any seniors on it.
“We’ve definitely lost a couple of very close meets but the team in general is definitely heading in the right direction” Taffe said. “I think overall we’re very pleased with what we’ve seen. We’re going to be in very good shape”.
The women have fared slightly better so far this season as they got their first win of the year on November 6 against Smith College, 170-119. The Pride were able to dominate in their second meet of the season as well, besting Keene State 219-75.
When the Springfield women went to Ithaca, they boasted fifth place finishes in all three days of competition. Back from New York, the Pride lost their closest meet of the season to Middlebury 155.5-145.5.
The women’s team boasts senior diver Sierra Skaza, who has been their best overall performer.. Skaza has set nationally qualifying marks pretty much every time she steps on either the one or the three meter boards this year and shows no signs of slowing down.
She has proved to be a mentor for the only other diver on the team, sophomore Bailey Carey. The senior explained the relationship that she has with Carey, claiming “Bailey is following in my footsteps which is really cool to see. I try to push her to be a better diver and she pushes me too”.
Skaza’s leadership has unquestionably rubbed off on Carey. At the Ithaca Invitational, Skaza finished third on the one meter board (432.75) with Carey placing just behind in ninth (401.75).
Personally, Skaza has killed it on both the one and three meter boards this season. Her nationally qualifying mark of 300.30 on the three meter board was a huge part of the Pride’s victory over Keene State at a time where they needed it most.
The men’s standout performer this season has came from the freshman class. Outspoken freshman Erik Jensen has proven over the course of the year that he is not afraid of anybody in the water and his numbers will back that up.
In the latest meet against Middlebury, Jensen was instrumental in getting the Pride close to a victory. The New Jersey native took home first place in 500 freestyle (4:55.46), the 1,000 freestyle (10:07.51) and the 100 fly (54.19). There is no doubt Taffe likes the direction that Jensen is heading during the rest of this season and for future years.
“I think he is gonna rewrite our record books in a bunch of different areas” said Taffe. “He’s a very talented kid who loves to compete”.
Jensen sets high goals for himself and his team and looks to deliver on the pool. Although he knows his team performance could be better, he is proud of his first semester as a Springfield College swimmer.
“For where we are at in the season I think I’m pretty set” explained Jensen. “I’m at the spot I’d like to be”.
In the eyes of those following the team, this season hasn’t been as successful as it could be on either the men’s or women’s side. No matter what way you look at it, there will have to be some serious turnaround before one can claim the season was very good from a record prospective. Despite the tough records though, the outlook on this season is far from negative thanks to the development of certain student-athletes.
Jensen is one of a large group of freshman and sophomore swimmers on the men’s side. The only senior, Tim DeCoste, graduated early and had his last meet against Middlebury. Despite this, the freshman have developed nicely and juniors like Sean Harnish have stepped up. Harnish is leading the men’s medley relay team and has been a leader for the Pride all year long.
“Sean is swimming better, faster than he ever has in his life” said Taffe. “He’s maturing in and out of the pool. Initially he didn’t realize [the leadership role] was gonna fall on him but he’s kinda run with it”.
The women’s side has seen more production in the wins column than the men’s but also can point at similar of the development areas when looking for other positives. Freshman Grace Moore has owned the competition this season and has became one of the Pride’s go-to swimmers. Moore was the female representative for the Maroon Club Athlete of the Week after her impressive performance against Middlebury.
Even though the season hasn’t been as successful as the Pride teams have wanted it to be, both men’s and women’s swimming and diving have had their ups to go with the downs. For the rest of the season along with future seasons to come, things are looking bright on Alden Street.
Photo courtesy of Helen Lucas