With the regular season now in the past, the UCSB women’s swim and dive team will begin its run at the MPSF Swimming Championships starting this Thursday at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park and concluding Feb. 18. Winners of their last four dual meets, the Gauchos hope the momentum they gained will carry on against some of the toughest competition in the nation.
“I honestly believe winning the last four meets, the way we did it, gave us a lot of momentum,” Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “The women are at a very good place physically with the rest they had and mentally with the goals they have set. They have come together as a complete unit.”
Last year, Santa Barbara competed for the first time as a member of the MPSF conference and finished 97 points behind UC Davis to come in second place. This year the Gauchos come into the tournament having defeated three conference opponents in the regular season, including the Aggies, but will now be up against new conference member and tournament favorite BYU, bringing the two best backstroke swimmers and four best divers to the conference tournament.
“Second place was bittersweet for us; I think this year is going to be a different scenario,” Wilson said. “We think that we can do some pretty good things but we have to be aware of the other teams and their strengths. We have to go up against other teams’ strengths and really try to magnify our own.”
Sophomores Allie Knight, Sophia Yamauchi and Andrea Ward set four new school records in last year’s conference championship and will lead the way for the Gauchos this time around as well. Knight looks to continue her dominance in the backstroke where in last year’s conference championship she broke a school record in the 200-yard backstroke. Ward won three individual events in her last dual meet and will compete in the 500-yard freestyle and the 100- and 200-yard fly.
Yamauchi earned MPSF Athlete of the Week honors after her performance in the last dual meet against Cal Poly where she won the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. She enters the tournament having an undefeated record in all individual events in dual meets this season, earning first place in seven different individual events.
UCSB will rely on their individual medley swimmers and will look to get more out of their sprint freestylers to win the competition.
“[We] have to take another step mentally and emotionally,” Wilson said. “We’re going to have to swim and dive very well and we have to do it at the highest level possible.”
The Gauchos’ first event will be the 200-yard medley relay starting at 6 p.m.