Sophomore freestyler Rhys Hanley takes a breath during a freestyle practice rep on Monday at Jacobs Pool. Lehigh swimming has its season opener Saturday against Boston University. (Alexis King/B&W Staff)

Lehigh men’s and women’s swim teams set high standards for upcoming season


The Lehigh men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams swam against Patriot League opponent Boston University for the first time during the 2014-15 season.

Three years later and the teams have yet to win a meet against the Terriers.

The Mountain Hawks look to improve on last year’s Patriot League Championship finishes by kicking off their season with Lehigh’s first set of wins against the Terriers on Saturday at home.

The men’s team finished the 2016-17 season with a 4-5 record and a fifth place finish at the Patriot League Championships. As for the women, the team ended last season with a 6-2 record and finished third at championships.

The Mountain Hawks agreed they aren’t completely satisfied with their season finishes and hope to improve both teams’ records and championship placement this season.

“We had a fantastic season last year for both men and women,” coach Rob Herb said. “They worked hard for what they achieved.”

Junior butterflyer and freestyler Evan Riddell said the men’s team was happy with its improvement from its sixth place finish his freshman year but wasn’t ready to settle for a fifth place finish. He said the team hopes to place third at championships this year.

Senior backstroker Julia Perry said last season’s finish was a step in the right direction for the women’s team.

“Finishing third at Patriots on the women’s side was awesome,” Perry said, “and it was a huge piece in our plan of laying the foundation for a championship program.”

She said the team’s goal is to place second at the Patriot League Championships, and she believes the team is moving in that direction by pushing the pace at practice and encouraging each other in the weight room.

“I’m confident that if we continue this trend, then we will meet the big goals that we’ve set for each other this year,” Perry said. “It’s a really long season, but if we stay focused and tackle one meet at a time, then I think we will be golden.”

Herb said he expects the women’s team to raise the bar again and remain in the top three in the league.

The women’s team is returning with two Patriot League champions — freestyler Meghan Thompson and freestyler and backstroker Payton Miles. The team will be filling key spots in the line-up with the nine new freshmen who Perry describes as “a really fast group of girls.”

In addition to the team’s new freshmen additions, the swimming program added assistant coach Eric Bugby. Bugby’s background includes coaching Patriot League opponent Army West Point.

Riddell said the team has connected with Bugby, who fits right in.

“He’s super competitive and brings a lot of energy to practice every day, which is exactly what we need,” Riddell said.

Herb said Bugby has proved to be a beneficial addition to the program with the mindset and focus he encourages the swimmers to embody and the changes he’s made to pool and dryland workouts.

The team looks to translate the new change of staff and strategy into a successful season, and Perry said the Mountain Hawks are optimistic about the upcoming season.

Senior backstroker Dean Shafritz said the returning roster is also different from last year. Shafritz said the program lost some “powerhouse swimmers” who were integral to both the men’s and women’s scoring last year.

However, Shafritz said both teams have an impressive incoming class this year that will greatly contribute to the program’s depth both on the board and in the water.

Herb echoed Shafritz and said he believes he has a more talented team this time around.

“I think the team this year has potential to turn some heads in the Patriot League and show some of the other teams that we are stronger than ever and only getting stronger,” Shafritz said.

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