After an intense preseason buildup, the UCSB women’s swim team will put their prowess to the test today, as they cut the tape on their season in a tri-meet at UCLA.
Picked in the preseason coaches’ poll to repeat as Big West Champions, the women return both individual standouts, like senior butterfly and breaststroker Jennifer Schwalb, and an incredible sophomore class which hopes to repeat their staggering contributions of yesteryear.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Head Coach Gregg Wilson said. “I just have to make sure they’re loaded and ready to fire.”
The team is lead by Schwalb and her senior co-captain and sprinter Katie Moeckel, who, as roommates, will lead the team both in and out of the water.
Schwalb already owns five school records, while Moeckel helped the Gauchos take home wins in both the 400 freestyle and the 200 medley relays at the Big West Championships last year.
But as they head down to face national powerhouse UCLA, it will likely take more than talent to make some winning waves.
“I told the girls I wanted a lot of energy [at the UCLA meet],” Wilson said. “They’re competing, cheering, warming up or warming down for two hours.”
It was the team’s raucous energy, notes Wilson, that helped the Gauchos pull off an impressive win in a relay at Arizona State last season.
“It does two things,” Wilson said. “It supports their teammates and it draws the attention of the other schools. We went to a meet against Arizona State and our women won the final really and our men lost by just a little bit.”
While the Bruins hold an astounding 22-0 all-time record against the Gauchos, Wilson is optimistic about today’s meet.
“UCLA is not quite as strong as they were last year and we’re stronger,” Wilson said. “And we’ve got this very strong sophomore class who, as freshmen, scored well over half of our team points at the conference championships last year. And they’ve gotten better. So, we’re really excited about where these women are [going].”
Much to their coach’s delight, preseason buildup has seen some of the most intense training sessions in recent years.
“We’ve had some very, very good practices – much harder, much more involved, and with a much better attitude than we’ve had in previous years,” Wilson said. “We want to get a lot more kids to the NCAA championships this year and you don’t just do that [at the end of the season; you have to start from the beginning].”
But practice does not win league championships.
“It’s not enough just to practice, you’ve got to be able to race,” Wilson said. “We’re not a practicing swimming team; we’re a competitive swimming team. [The girls] have got to feel that they belong in the same arena as UCLA. If they feel that way, and they reflect what they’ve been doing in practice in the pool, [then we’ll have a good outing].”
After facing both UCLA and Oregon State today, the women return home tomorrow to compete in an intra-squad meet along with the men’s swim team on Saturday at 10 a.m.