Following last season’s successful campaign, 14th year coach Jason Mahowald and his swimming & diving squad are hungry for more.
“There’s definitely a drive to be successful with this group,” Mahowald said. “And that’s not coming from anyone but our upperclassmen. They want this team to be good, and I think they expect it to be good.Our expectation is to be better than we were before.”
Last season, the men’s team placed second and the women placed fourth at the Summit League Championships. The teams combined to break 19 school records.
“In years past we’ve been underdogs,” said senior swimmer Chris Pospisil. “Last year we finally beat (South Dakota) State and got second in conference. We’ve got to hit it hard and live up to our second place.”
The team will enter the season missing a key upperclassman piece. Junior Isaac Morris, who earned Summit League Men’s Diver of the Championships and All-Summit League honors last season, suffered a torn ACL prior to the season.
“It’s kind of a ‘hope he recovers quickly’ kind of injury,” said senior swimmer Abby Hollub. “If he’s out for the season, which I don’t think he will be, it would be a huge loss for our team.”
Coach Mahowald declined to publicly comment on Morris.
This year USD signed over 30 new recruits to the team, a considerably large class for a team that routinely recruits 8-16 athletes. This year’s class is one that coach Mahowald is excited to see develop.
“Numbers don’t always mean everything, but we’ve got what I think is a really great group of kids,” said Mahowald. “We’ve got a long way to go to February, but I think they are doing well so far. They’re holding their own. When you have a group of freshman this big, just watching their development is always exciting.”
“There’s a lot of fresh new talent,” said Hollub. “The younger kids we have are extremely talented. It will be really cool to see them and how they perform.”
The wave of new talent does not come without new challenges, however. Primarily, building up team chemistry in the short window of preseason preparation.
“It’s like we have half of an entire new team,” said Hollub. “But I think everybody is accommodating well, I think it’s been a very positive season so far. We’re definitely becoming a close-knit family.”
It’s veterans like Hollub and Pospisil that are taking initiative and helping the freshman settle in.
“I’ve got a really good group of upperclassmen that are stepping into leadership roles, coming into their own,” said Mahowald.
Mahowald credits his love of watching his team grow and develop for sticking with coaching.
“I try to coach the kids the way I think I’d want my kids to be coached,” said Mahowald. “I have high expectations of my kids in my group both in the pool and in the classroom. I think the whole team development and team dynamic is what keeps bringing me back for more.”
Mahowald’s family-oriented, no-nonsense approach to coaching is something the team is continuing to adjust to going into to season.
“We’re easing into it. We haven’t hit it as hard as possible yet. We’re probably at 80 percent difficulty,” said Pospisil. “Our coach hasn’t been easy on us, so it’s been a lot of tough workouts,” added Hollub.
The swimming and diving team kicks off their season with a red/white scrimmage on Saturday at 11 a.m.