SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury men's and women's swimming teams are a day away from their first swim meet of the season, and they've already been hard at work preparing for what should be another exciting campaign. Many regular faces have graduated and moved on from last season, while newer faces look to step into leadership roles and represent a men's and women's team that placed third and fifth, respectively, at last year's Capital Athletic Conference championships.
Head Coach Jill Stephenson, who returns for her 23rd season as Head Coach of the Salisbury swimming program, knows her teams have much to prove this year. Both teams — but especially the women — have lost a number of top swimmers from 2016-2017. The talent turnover makes expectations harder to gauge than in past years, and Stephenson has her eyes on everyone to come together and answer the call when their name is called.
"We're looking for some of our people who didn't get a chance to swim so much last year to step up," Stephenson said.
The women's team faces some big changes this year after losing standouts Victoria Radcliffe, Layne Gable, and Claudia Guay to graduation. While Stephenson acknowledges that this season is a rebuilding time for the team, she still feels confident that they can finish as one of the top five teams in the conference. That success will have to begin with her returning veterans.
"Seniors Paulina Kozorosky and Ali Johnston have only been on the team for one season," Stephenson said, "but they are doing a fantastic job of stepping into that leadership role and allowing the girls who have been on the team longer to help out."
"Mia is back on the team after undergoing shoulder surgery and has been recovering for a year. Maddie is also back after taking a semester off," Stephenson said. "We're excited to have those two back again."
With so many new faces, it will take some adjustments early in the season to find the right type of chemistry in relay events. With a smaller lineup than normal on the women's side, more will be asked of each individual.
"We're looking to find a lineup that is going to work for us," Stephenson said. "We have girls who are pretty solid, but we don't have the number of girls this year that we've had in the past."
With less of a turnover on the men's side, expectations are being held a little higher.
"Third or better is what we are aiming for," Stephenson said, when asked where she expects her team to finish at the CAC championships next spring. She was quick to add that second place is a realistic possibility.
"Conor and Stephen have been here all four years," Stephenson said. "This is Bill's third year and Matt's second year on the team. Conor and Stephen are our leaders, and Bill and Matt are helping out where they can and so far, it's working."
The coaching staff also expects a number of new faces on the men's side to contribute right away.
Stephenson also pointed out that some new equipment updates in the Natatorium at Maggs Physical Activities Center could end up making a positive impact during the 2017-18 season.
"We have the new fin blocks and backstroke wedges that are going to help us tremendously," Stephenson said. "We're looking forward to putting those to work for us in our pool and seeing what they can do. I think they can make up to a full second difference in what people's split times will be in this pool."
The teams kick off their seasons on Saturday, October 21, when they host Catholic University of America. The meet is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
CAC Championships will run from February 22nd through the 25th at St. Mary's College of Maryland.