Feb. 26, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. -
Villanova swimming and diving Head Coach Rick Simpson talks about his team's upcoming competition at the BIG EAST Championships and looks back on the strides the Wildcats have made this season. Swimming and diving will compete Indianapolis, Indiana beginning next Wednesday, February 27 through Saturday March 2.
Q. How has the team either met or exceeded your expectations this season?
"I would say on the women's side, they have met our expectations. So far our in-season record 8-2 and of course we went to the Rutgers Invite where they won the title. I think in season we're right where we expected. We're a pretty deep team this year; we've got most of our bases covered in terms of our strengths being spread out in various different strokes. This is a huge senior class with a lot of experience plus quality in our other classes."
Men, we lost last year and the year before a number of points to graduation. We've done a great job of filling that in. Last week was a big win for us. The Georgetown win was huge for us, that's probably their biggest rivalry. The win over Seton Hall was huge for them as well. On the men's side we're looking at a number of school records, which is a big goal for their team right now to achieve. Another major goal for them is to get as many guys back in finals (at the BIG EAST Championships) as we can."
Q. How have you been preparing for the upcoming Big East Championships?
"Fortunately the in-season scenarios have set up a great preparation in its own right to the point where we haven't had to overly talk them into the championship. We went through three weekends in a row of Friday and Saturday night competition with these rival programs. Two out of the three situations came down to the last relay... so high pressure situations in a multi- day environment which is exactly what the conference championship brings about. A lot of high pressure, multiple sessions over multiple days, so from that perspective, we feel as though we are as prepared as we possibly can be, not by talking about it, but simply through experience and championship competition. There's no better way to prepare them than through live competition."
Q. What challenges do expect to face at the Championships?
"Platform diving has been added as a scored event this year, it's the first year that it's ever been scored. We don't have a diving tower, but we are going to compete in the event on the women's side, we have one person that's going to compete. Obviously, without those resources, we are at a little bit of a disadvantage. Other than that, I feel we have probably the best representation across the board in all of our strokes in terms of scoring, diving probably being our weakest. You're looking at three diving events that we only have one competitor and again, one of those three events we don't even have the resource to train for the event."
Q. Talk about the leadership of your seniors/captains this season.
"The great thing about it is that we have team captains and they are great leaders, but the leadership is certainly not limited to them, which I think is a pretty special thing. We see so much leadership not only in the pool, but outside the pool from people who are not actual team captains. I think that is a great thing... there is no animosity, there's no `sit back and let the senior captains do all the leadership because I'm not a captain I don't have to worry about it...' that's not the attitude at all. I think from a swimming perspective I think every single senior understands that he or she has a role they need to play in the pool, but even outside the pool, and (the other team members) are not just handing it over to the seniors and saying `this is your problem;' it's a group effort in terms of leadership. We're starting to see leadership moving over to the juniors and sophomores; they're doing a great job at spreading out that leadership."
Q. Can you talk about how your underclassmen have stepped up this season?
"With this high quality class graduating, we're looking at who are the next rising stars, who are the people that understand that they are graduating and we need to step up and Sara (sophomore Sara Jurek) definitely is stepping into that role. Sara and Katrin Heider are the future leaders in terms of quality of performance, but al so leadership on deck. Of course the freshman, Kaisla Kollanus... she is incredibly athletically mature. She doesn't conduct herself competitively like she's a freshman trying to figure it out; she conducts herself like she's been here for a long time. I think she is walking in her with a lot of athletic maturity and it shows. Something that doesn't happen very often is when you put a freshman as an anchor on all of your big relays. Every time this year, it's worked out great... she anchors a relay like a senior would anchor a relay, and in those tough competitions where it comes down to the last event, in both cases, it's Kaisla coming from behind and actually winning it to win the meet. It speaks volumes for a freshman."
Q. How does any conference realignment factor into this year's championships?
"For us, I think what's making this a bigger meet is that we know there are going to be a lot of changes in the conference. A lot of coaches are calling this a historic BIG EAST Championships because the conference as we have known it for years is not going to look the same. How it's going to change no one really seems to know. The Villanova-Pittsburgh rivalry, for example, which has been going on since about the late `70's...that's going to end this year. Villanova-Rutgers rivalry has developed and they will be gone. There's a lot of inter-conference rivalries that are coming to an end this year. On top of that, our four year plan that we have had is all coming to an end. It's a combination of the two. We really want to get a lot done this year because the landscape is going to be a lot different next year, both internally and externally."