Sophomore swimmer Ann Foley takes a breath as she practices her backstroke during practice on Monday, Oct. 4, 2017, at Jacobs Pool. The Lehigh women’s swimming and diving team will be hosting the first meet of the season, the Brown and White Meet, on Friday, September 28, 2018. (Alexis King/B&W Staff)

Season Preview: Women’s swim and dive adjusts to new class

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The Lehigh women’s swimming and diving team looks to carry the momentum of last season’s strong finish into the 2018-2019 campaign as they begin competition at the Brown and White meet on Sept. 28 at Jacobs Pool. 

The women finished last year with an overall record of 6-2, with losses against West Chester and long-time Patriot League rival Bucknell. After finishing third overall in the Patriot League Championships the last two seasons, the Mountain Hawks have their sights set on securing a spot in the top two.

The team’s returning talent and promising freshman class have been preparing since the summer for another demanding season, with captains practices beginning in August.

Much of the team’s success in the past has stemmed not only from training but also from their cohesive effort in pushing each other to work hard for their goals as both individuals and as a collective group. For this reason, team building is largely incorporated into its off-season workouts.

Senior Allison Morel said in addition to the team’s strenuous physical regimen, developing a solid team dynamic with the new freshman class is an essential part of every preseason.

“There’s a fresh group of swimmers at the beginning of every season and getting to know them is really what it’s all about,” Morel said. “The physical stuff is important, but it’s fun to recognize the new dynamic and discover how new people will help in different ways.”

Despite losing talented swimmers like Meghan Thompson and Julianne Koch, who graduated in the spring, the upperclassmen are confident that the talented freshman class will be an invaluable asset to the program.

Junior Tori Connolly said the freshmen have meshed well with the team and are already contributing to the program’s competitive atmosphere.

“The freshmen have brought this new energy to the team,” Connolly said. “There’s so much talent in their class, so I really think that it’s going to be awesome to see what they can do this season. We’re really grateful to see some new faces that are already contributing to getting us all into that competitive momentum.”

The team credits its preseason success to Coach Rob Herb, who enters his 15th season at the helm of both the women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams.

Herb’s extensive knowledge about the sport and commitment to the program has led him to receive the honor of Patriot League Women’s Coach of the Year three times. Herb has also boasted an impressive overall dual meet record of 132-127.

Herb’s decorated track record isn’t the reason the team considers him an outstanding coach and role model.

Senior Payton Miles said Herb’s influence extends beyond the swimming pool. Miles said the effort he puts into developing trust between himself and the individual members of the team are what brings the program continued success.

“He’s tough and always pushes us to perform at our best, but he’s also a goofball when he knows we need it,” Miles said. “He’s definitely helped me grow both physically and mentally in and out of the pool. Knowing your swimmers’ strengths and weaknesses is important as a coach, but (Herb) knows how to work off of both of those in positive ways that ultimately strengthen us as individuals.”

With talented contributors and an accomplished coach leading the campaign, the Mountain Hawks are confident in their ability to achieve their goals of an undefeated dual season and a place in the top two at the Patriot League Championships.

“We know what it’s going to take to reach our goals for the season,” Miles said. “It’s going to take everything we have, but we’re not worried. We’re ready, we’re focused and we’re determined.”

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