SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University men's and women's swimming teams are set to begin the 2018-19 season with high hopes of improving on the previous campaign. The men's team returns a wealth of experience, while the women's team will rely on several newcomers to push them forward.
Head coach Jill Stephenson, entering her 24th season, has seen the hard-working, motivated nature of both teams so far, and hopes it carries over come meet time. Stephenson saw the men's program finish third and the women sixth at last year's Capital Athletic Conference Championships and believes both teams are capable of better finishes this year.
"I'm looking forward to getting going this weekend and seeing where we're at," Stephenson said. "We're excited to see everybody getting along, cheering for each other, and having a great season."
Expectations are high for a men's team that returns several top swimmers. The team will look to improve on its third-place finish from a year ago with no less than a second-place finish in 2018-19.
"The men's team is very motivated, very hard working, and really pushing each other," Stephenson said. "We have a really solid group of guys that everyone is going to contribute, so we really don't have too many weaknesses."
The men's roster consists of 10 returners and five newcomers, led by junior Josh Brown, who earned three first-place finishes at the CAC Championships last season. Brown won gold in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly while also setting a CAC and championship-meet record time in the 100 IM.
The women's team will rely on some new faces this year, as half of the team's roster is in their first year with the program. Despite the changes, Stephenson expects bigger things from the women this year, hoping to place no lower than fourth in the CAC.
"The attitude of the whole women's team is very different this year," Stephenson said. "They're very positive and hard working. I think last year's team never really came together as a team. This year, they're already together as a team."
Junior Emma Tarnosky will also be key but could miss some time in the beginning of the season.
"She's going to be missing a little first semester because she's in nursing, so we'll have her back full time in January," Stephenson said. "But we don't know how much she's going to be able to give us first semester."
One of 10 new faces for the women, Natalie Eakin transferred in and expects to be a quality freestyle sprinter for the Sea Gulls.
The Sea Gulls open the season on Saturday, October 20 as they host Catholic University of America at 1 p.m.
The first CAC meet is then on Saturday, October 27 as the teams travel to York College of Pennsylvania. The meet with York will be the first of just four CAC meets on the season, as Marymount (Va.) College is no longer in the conference.
"It's going to be interesting this year with only five swim teams left," Stephenson said. "The coach at Frostburg and the coach at York are brand new this year, so we don't know anything about them. So that adds an interesting wrinkle. So who knows, it's anyone's game at this point."
After traveling to York, Salisbury will return home for three straight meets at the beginning of November. The Sea Gulls will then hit the road for three straight in January before concluding the regular season at home against St. Mary's College of Maryland on Saturday, January 26.
CAC Championships will run from February 14 to February 17 at St. Mary's (Md.).