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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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‘Compete for one another’: Swimming and diving looks to capture second consecutive MAC title

Head coach Andy Bashor emphasizes focusing on the fundamentals

Members of the swimming and diving team pose for a photo during a recent meet against Cornell.
Members of the swimming and diving team pose for a photo during a recent meet against Cornell.

After capturing its first-ever Mid-American Conference Championship and dethroning seven-time champion Akron last season, UB swimming and diving (1-0, 1-0 MAC) is hungry to win its second consecutive title in 2021-22. 

The Bulls began the 2021-22 season with a comfortable win over Toledo (0-2, 0-1 MAC) Saturday, as they extended their winning streak to 10. The team picked up right where it left off last season, but it’s going to take internal motivation to sustain success throughout the season, head coach Andy Bashor told The Spectrum in an interview.

“You know, that’s gotta be on them,” Bashor said. “I can be the greatest motivator but if I have to motivate them each and every day, we’re in trouble. My job is to support them and give the best training environment as possible but they’ve got to come ready to go. They do that and they love being around each other as a team and competing for one another.” 

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Head coach Andy Bashor talks to members of the swimming and diving team during a recent meet against Cornell.

The team welcomed eight freshmen but lost six veterans — Brittney Beetcher, Isobel Holcomb, Jenna Krull, Journi Northrop, Nicole Roitenberg and Olivia Sapio — to graduation. Bashor says recruiting was a challenge because of the strict COVID-19 protocols — but he emphasized the importance of replacing the large graduated class.

“The recruitment process was really different because out of eight girls, we were only able to meet one of them in person because she came on a recruiting trip before the virus hit,” Bashor said. “We tried our best to give the best picture of UB possible but it was through Zoom, so you’re limited. But, like any year, freshmen are important and with graduating a large class last season, it’s important we recruited the amount we did to fill those empty roles and they really are making an immediate impact in practices.” 

The virus not only affected the recruitment process but also the season schedule. There were two cancellations last season, leaving the team and coaching staff unsure of what to expect from week-to-weekon a weekly basis. This season, Bashor imagines a little more stability.

“The biggest difference this year is that we can actually plan things out,” Bashor said. “Last year, we never knew what to expect. You just never knew if someone was going to be positive after each test and we’d have to shut down for two weeks. We had our first scrimmage Saturday [Oct. 23] and we didn’t have our first one till December last season, so it’s a step in the right direction and we can go in with that confidence this year.” 

Last year’s championship win was much like David meeting Goliath. Akron had won the MAC Championship seven years in a row and was poised to capture it for an eighth consecutive season. 

But the Bulls had other plans. 

During the final day of competition last April, the Bulls found themselves up by just three points heading into the final event, the 400-meter freestyle relay. With all eyes on them, Jillian Lawton, Elinor Duley, Jenna Krull and Toni Naccarella brought home the gold and the first conference championship in program history.

Bashor said the obvious feeling was excitement but words couldn’t replace the emotions his team evoked.  

“Gratefulness and excitement were flowing through the team but I remember the last day during warmups, just prepping the girls,” Bashor said. “I was checking in with everybody and making sure we’re all in the right mindset to get up and race like I know they could and then to see them celebrating, crying, and smiling was just one of those moments as a coach. We talked about creating memories and they created a memory that they’re never going to forget.” 

The Bulls will head to Athens, OH to face the Ohio Bobcats (1-1, 1-0 MAC) Saturday, Nov. 6 at 11 a.m. in hopes of increasing their regular season win streak. Followed by nearly a month-long break, the Bulls will then travel to Akron, OH for the annual Zippy Invite from Dec. 3 to Dec. 5 where they will meet the same team they dethroned just one season ago to take home the championship. 

Hunter Skoczylas is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at hunter.skoczylas@ubspectrum.com or @HunterSkoczylas on Twitter.  


HUNTER SKOCZYLAS

Hunter Skoczylas is the sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found looking up random sports statistics, jamming to Fleetwood Mac and dedicating his Sunday afternoons to watching the Buffalo Bills. 

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