Women’s swim and dive looks ahead to conference, national championships

GVSU Swim & Dive!

Zach Sepanik

While the winter season is upon us and snow leaves the outside world cold, the Grand Valley State University women’s swimming and diving team has been heating up the pool inside. After an eighth-place finish in last year’s national championships, the highest in team history, GVSU head coach Andy Boyce will look to build on that accomplishment.

“The team is looking really strong,” said Boyce, who enters his fourth year at the helm. “We have had some solid meets and just one loss in the conference – a close decision to Wayne State. We are a very deep team across the board in all events, and all swimmers are close together in their times.”

The team qualified 15 women for the national championships last year, but the NCAA has recently changed the standards for swimming for athletes to qualify for the championships.

“It has now become a selection process,” Boyce said. “The top athlete is taken from each event. We already have four divers who have qualified, and we must see what falls out in conference. But we should be able to qualify 15 women again, perhaps even 20.”

The GLIAC is filled with tough competition. Four teams from the conference finished in the top ten in last year’s final national rankings. The Lakers were second in the conference last year, and after their finish in the national championships, they hope to build on the success.

Junior diver Karen Verbrugge said the repetition and hard work the team displays in practice will translate to positive results.

“Our season has been full of fun and success. We have been working hard in practice and have seen great results at meets,” she said. “We have two main goals as a team this season: first, to become GLIAC conference champions, and second, to beat last year’s eighth-place finish at nationals.”

The team has a strong mix of youth and experience with 13 juniors and seniors providing leadership and guidance for 16 freshmen and sophomores. Boyce said he has seen the team come together inside and outside the pool.

“The upperclassmen welcome the freshmen to the dorms and bring goody bags,” he said. “In the weight room, we pair up upperclassmen with underclassmen so they can see how things are done. Also, they can be seen outside the pool helping the underclassmen with tutoring.”

Verbrugge said she has also noticed how close the team has become.

“As clich?© as it is, we really are one big family,” she said. “We are a very close knit team, and we are behind each other 100 percent in practice and at meets. At big meets, it really helps to see or hear your teammates all cheering you on.”

The team has had a strong start to their year with only one conference loss and has stepped up their preparation for the conference schedule. The Lakers have faced tough competition, including Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Senior swimmer Erin Lynch, who specializes in the butterfly and IM, said she understands the importance of practice and teammates working together.

“By pushing each other in practice and striving for common goals, there is a competitive nature that is carried over into competition,” she said. “During practices, (Boyce) looks for ways to improve people’s strokes. He has also created an environment where everyone can enjoy coming to practice. We may not always have the longest practices, but in the time we do have, we focus on improving our strokes, turns and dives.”

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