The Lehigh men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have focused on creating strong team cultures this season to find success.
Both teams have had competition-filled seasons so far, with recent meets against West Chester University, Bloomsburg University, Loyola University and Rider University.
The teams recently lost Erin Matyus as their associate head coach when she accepted the associate head coach position at Penn State University in August. Mary Helen has since taken over her position.
Junior swimmer Connor Drucis said Helen is a great addition to the program.
“I’m very excited about how it started this fall and we’re very confident heading to Lafayette and the Patriot League,” Drucis said. “Freshmen came in right away, doing very well in the pool and out of the pool.”
On the women’s team, freshmen swimmers Dagny Donaldson and Caitlin Deitch came out of several meets with multiple first place finishes and both contributed to the 200-yard freestyle relay team’s success this season.
Sophomore swimmer Sarah Gill was nominated for Patriot League Swimmer of the Week for the first time in her career on Oct. 11 after winning the one-meter dive and the three-meter dive against Loyola on Oct. 8.
For the men, freshman Aaron Williams started the season off with two first-place finishes against Loyola. He was a leg of a 400-medley relay that came in second place in a tri-meet against Bloomsburg and West Chester on Oct. 15. He tied for first place in the 50-yard freestyle event against Rider on Oct. 22.
Last year, the women’s team (3-1) finished their season with an overall .571 win rate and the men (1-3) finished with an overall .286 win rate.
Looking to improve their success, freshman Alfredo Figueroa said the teams have been working with Lehigh Athletics’ sports psychology department to improve on smaller aspects of their competition.
Sports psychology focuses on these details to work with athletes and help them become mentally stronger, improving their times even if they are fatigued — something that will be decisive in upcoming meets such as the teams’ rivalry meets against Lafayette on Nov. 18.
“When we are facing a difficult situation in swimming, you get tired and your mind tries to play tricks with you and you think you are done with the race,” Figueroa said.
Drucis said the positive team culture has been prevalent this season, a component that he believes distinguishes this year’s team from prior years.
Freshman Julia Cassone said the positive atmosphere played a key role in helping to make the transition from high school to college easier.
“The energy is up, and we’re all supportive of each other,” Cassone said. “The team dynamic is great. You hear that in a lot of sports, freshmen have to live up to standards, but I would say that we are very close-knit and very much a family.”
Cassone said she credits junior captains Miles Cox and Jordan MacDonald and senior captains Drucis and Hannah Lord with creating a positive atmosphere and being role models for the team.
“The upperclassmen have done a really good job helping us adjust academically and athletically,” Cassone said. “In general, the team has helped us all around since we have been here.”
Coach Rob Herb said he agrees that this group of leaders has “set the standards for this team to be successful.”
In their final meet before competing against Lafayette on Nov. 18 and 19, the Mountain Hawks faced Rider University on Oct. 22. The men’s team fell to Rider 192.5 to 95.5. The women’s team was able to pull an impressive victory over Rider with a final score of 227-69. Several swimmers clinched first place finishes, including Gill who placed first twice.
“This season truly has been a team effort,” Herb said. “We have been watching everyone step up.”