SWIMMING: Women swimming toward another championship

Wes Watt

Like NASA, Western’s women’s swimming and diving team is on a mission. But instead of Mars, the women are trying to ride their undefeated rocket all the way to a fourth straight Sun Belt Conference Championship.

But before it gets to the planet of champions, everyone on board must strap in for some turbulence as it gets ready to face a mid-major powerhouse on the road at Southwest Missouri State for the final dual meet of the season.

“It’s big and they know it,” coach Bill Powell said. “I think our girls are going to swim well. They’re going to have to, to win.”

Along with Western, SMS is ranked among the top 10 in the mid-major poll. The Bears also handed Western a 35-point slashing at the end of last season.

But senior diver Marci Kacsir wants her final regular season meet to go out with an explosion.

And a win over the Bears will ignite the Lady Toppers into the SBC Championships like a firebomb.

“It’s very important,” Kacsir said. “When the competition gets tough, we can rise to the challenge.”

The men’s team is looking top competition right in the face. And if it wants the Bears to blink first, it will have to have its best swim of the year.

The Toppers pride themselves with having only two teams ranked ahead of them in the mid-major poll. But the Bears are one of them.

With the Toppers losing two of their last three matches, a big win would provide a confidence boost to Southwest Missouri State going into their first Missouri Valley Conference Championships in February.

But help is on the way because freshman Nic Hurt will be returning for the first time in three meets.

The burden will be taken off his teammates from filling his holes and Hurt hopes to add strong first or second place depth to the roster.

Even with the return of Hurt, Powell said his team will be in a fight to the finish.

And that’s how Powell likes it.

“I’d rather it went down to the last relay,” Powell said. “Every race means something, then that’s how you get better. Win or lose, I think we’ll be a better team.”

Reach Wes Watt at [email protected]