Junior Justin Kostelnik preps for the upcoming 2015-16 season in Taylor Gym on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. Justin White and Jamal Willis qualified for the Summer 2016 Olympic Trials with their performance at Nationals. (Madeleine Centrella/B&W photo)

Lehigh swim and dive hope change in culture will help season performance


Changing the team culture has been a focal point of the Lehigh swimming and diving teams this offseason. They’re ready to show it’s made a difference.

The teams are looking to have more success this season, which begins Saturday. Last year, the men and women placed fifth and fourth, respectively, at the Patriot League championship.

The men’s team returns a trio of all-league swimmers in juniors Jamal Willis, Jacob Moyar and Justin White. Willis alluded to the culture change throughout the team

“Our coaches have really been pushing the idea that hard work pays off, and it’s true, hard work does pay off,” Willis said. “Holding teammates accountable is another key we have been doing this entire offseason. It is showing in the way we train.”

Willis and his teammates hope for a better season with the amount of experience on the roster, but are also looking forward to the freshmen contribution. According to Willis, the freshmen on the team have responded well to offseason training, picking things up quickly and will play a big role in the upcoming meet against Boston University.

The women’s team has a lot of returning talent, bringing back six all-league performers, four of whom were first-team selections. Last year, then-sophomore Kaitlyn Ruffing was the league champion in the 50 yard freestyle race. As a team, it finished that meet having established seven new school records.

Another team goal is not only to maintain its success, but to build on it. Sophomore Julia Perry said she is very excited about the season, saying that both the men’s and women’s teams aim to continue to rise through the ranks.

Willis said how proud he was that pretty much everyone came back to school in shape. On the women’s end, junior Kelly Carroll said how pleased she is with the way everyone has been more competitive and pushing each other throughout the offseason.

“In the past our team has struggled with communication between the boy’s and girl’s team leaders and has been the missing last piece of the puzzle to having one cohesive squad,” she said.

The swimmers have also been pleased with the way coaches Rob Herb and Erin Matyus have helped them prepare in the offseason and preseason. Herb has been working with the distance swimmers and Matyus has worked with the sprinters, giving the swimmers a great deal of pool time this offseason.

“They both know how to motivate us as a team,” Perry said. “We have been really receptive to Rob and Erin’s energy, and the overall vibe at practice is really positive.”

Overall, both the men’s and women’s teams will have 11 meets in the 2015-16 season, five of which are home for the men and four of which are home for the women. The Patriot League Championships will occur Feb. 17-20.

The U.S. Nationals meet will occur in the middle of the season as usual, spanning Dec. 2-5. The team will have a break for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays and will not compete in a team match for a seven-week period.

The meet this weekend will be a dual meet against Boston University in the team’s season opener. This will be a challenge to the men’s team, as the Terriers finished third in the league last year. The meet will take place Saturday at 1 p.m. in Taylor Gym.

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