After losing a meet to Rutgers and defeating Central Connecticut State University on Jan. 18, the Spiders swimming and diving team came out on top the next day against Fordham (161-124) and La Salle (180-110).
“I feel like we went in disappointed that we weren’t able to come out on top against Rutgers on Friday night, ready to improve in our race strategies and hungry to race the girls we knew we’d see again,” junior swimmer Mali Kobelja said. “So, we rode on positive energy the whole meet. That was a lot of fun.”
Although Saturday’s back-to-back victories have provided the team with a slight boost in confidence, head coach Matt Barany said that there were still many skills that swimming and diving members must continue to work on before heading to the Atlantic 10 Championships next month in Geneva, Ohio.
“I am detail-oriented because I believe many teams are not,” Barany said. “This requires the team to physically push limits, but it also requires full concentration on nearly every task. I think some of our practices are like stressful exams for the women because they have to operate with a very high level of concentration.”
That concentration and attention to detail will be especially important as Richmond takes on some of its bigger conference rivals next month during the A-10s, he said.
“I think UMass is the most talented team in the A-10, even more talented than us,” Barany said. “They have six divers who can score at our championship meet. If they perform to potential, they should win. We’ll try to disrupt that. I think we’ll be hard to beat.”
Although the competition will be stronger than ever on Feb. 2o, Kobelja said the A-10s were also when conference opponents could cheer each other on and show support for other teams.
“We’re excited to see our friends from Rhode Island again,” Kobelja said. “Our training trips in Florida overlap over winter break, so we spend time with them and actually swam against them one day. Meets are always more fun when there is mutual respect and even camaraderie between teams.”
In addition to their successful season thus far, Spider swimmers and divers have made it a goal to excel outside of the pool as well, Kobelja said. This year, the team earned its highest fall GPA yet, 3.37, and Kobelja became the first University of Richmond athlete and swimmer to win the A-10 Scholar Athlete of the Year for 2011-2012, beating out athletes from every sport in the conference.
Regardless of how the team fares next month, Barany and Kobelja both credit the team’s success to the strong friendship and support present among members, they said.
Team leadership is balanced between captains and upperclassmen, and the team’s best quality is how well team members treat one another, Barany said.
Kobelja said that her team’s support was ultimately what allowed her to swim better and feel most confident during meets.
“I swim better when I know how much my team has invested in me to be at my best, and we need to continue doing that,” she said. “I think I can speak for everyone when I say that I’ve enjoyed this season a lot, and we’re looking forward to the A-10s with a lot of excitement.”
Richmond swimming and diving members will take on Villanova in a non-conference meet at the Robins Center Natatorium on Feb. 1 at 5 p.m.
After the Villanova meet, the team will travel to Geneva. The first day of the A-10 championships is Wednesday, Feb. 20. The Spiders will look to win its third consecutive A-10 championship.
Contact reporter Gaby Calabrese at email@example.com