Pittsburgh, PA— For the Duquesne swimming and diving teams, its season can currently be described by one word as it prepares for next week’s Atlantic 10 Championships, taper.
Taper has always been key toward’s Duquesne’s Atlantic 10 Championship progress, as it allows for the team to fine-tune its skills while the work inside of the pool is cut in preparation for the most important and intensive stretch of the season.
Each year, the team’s taper program differs based on the freshmen and conversations across the team, among some factors. The taper does have some tweaks through the season.
While the swimming season started in October, it really is an 8-to-10 month progress, with plenty of emphasis on A-10’s which once again will take place at Spire Institute in Geneva, OH.
“I think we’re in a good place,” Duquesne swimming coach David Sheets said. “Obviously every day has its ups and downs. The girls are doing what we’ve asked them to do in the practices and are working hard on the little things. We still have time yet to get to where we want to be.”
Sheets is in his 17th season coaching the swimming team and each team in its own right has been special. Many eyes have been on the past two year’s teams as each placed second at A-10’s which is the best in program history.
The depth also helps in the sense that everyone can rely on each other, which ultimately allows for a team to get closer together.
This year’s team has been separated by its depth which Sheets believes is better than any of his past 16 years.
“The depth helps us in the fact that I think we are one of the deepest teams in the conference, so that’s going to help us come day three or day four when maybe a couple other teams have 12 kids that are scoring,” said Sheets. “I think we have the potential for 18 kids to score and that’s going to help us as we get to the end of the meet.”
When it comes to the conference’s so-called “gold standard” of women’s swimming and diving, Richmond has won 11 of the past 12 Atlantic 10 Championships. Earlier this season, Duquesne bested Richmond during the Richmond Duals by a 154-145 score.
Though there is plenty of competition, Sheets tries to make sure both he and his team alike do not concern themselves with anybody else.
“Every day we are not going to look up and see where we are,” he said. “If you do that it takes away from the concentration of what we need to do and what we need to control to do the best that we possibly can. We are going to focus on what we have control over and that’s Duquesne swimming and diving. Every race, prelim and final is going to be important.”
In addition to a swimming program which has been among the class of the conference, Duquesne introduced a diving team which is in its first season as a varsity spot.
As Sheets mentioned earlier in the season, no longer is the diving portion of A-10’s the “bathroom break”, but rather a chance to earn more points, which may prove to be the difference in Duquesne winning its first conference title in program history.
“For our program in general it’s a growing period,” Sheets said. “Just getting to the meet and watching our divers dive, that’s a bonus. How they do and respond, Charlie (Hauser) has them ready. I’m excited to see what they do and how they perform at the conference level.”
Something else which may serve as an advantage towards Duquesne’s cause is the amount of upperclassmen on this team, who have plenty of experience and have achieved both personal and team success.
When it comes to this point of the season, this experience says a lot because neither Sheets nor assistant coach Megan Zarriello have to say much to their team.
“At this part of the season, the kids know what they need to do and for me to give them rah-rah speeches, if we need to, I will but these kids are motivated enough to excel and exceed any expectations we have,” said Sheets. “I will talk to them a little bit the night before the meet and we’ll go from there.”
During A-10’s, there is a roller coaster of emotions, which is natural for any team, Sheets has gone through them plenty of times while as he approaches close to two decades with the team.
He is familiar with this song and dance and certainly is not immune to these feelings but has tried to manage his emotions as much as possible.
“I think with age I’ve gotten a bit calmer come this time of the year, at least I do a better job of hiding it,” Sheets said. “The excitement is going to happen, that is the most exciting time of the year for me. The wait is the worst part, we get there Tuesday and we don’t race until Wednesday night. Once that first 200m medley goes off and we get rolling, the week flies by. I just want to enjoy every race and enjoy spending time with this team and enjoying the journey we’ve taken together over the last 8-9 months.”
For Duquesne, the potential is certainly there for history to be made once again, though ultimately this will be determined by the end of next Saturday night and the course of events which precede it.
“Their attitudes are constantly positive and excited,” said Sheets. “It’s a long season, but they’ve stayed focused and now I’m excited for them to reap the benefits of all the hard work that they’ve put in.”
Photo credits: Duquesne Swimming & Diving Facebook/Duquesne Athletics