SWIMMING: Teams face stiffest challenge yet at SIU

Josh Buckman

Western’s swimming and diving team will face a difficult task when it squares off against Southern Illinois Saturday in Carbondale.

“They’re the best team will see until we get to the National Independent (Championships),” head coach Bill Powell said. “They’re a very good team, especially their men. Tough in every event. … Top to bottom, they’re a very good team.”

Powell admits that the Toppers are going to have to swim faster than they have all season, but he still believes the team won’t give up without a fight.

“I think our kids will compete well against SIU,” Powell said. “We’ve been able to get up when we needed to all year long. They rise to the occasion, so we’ll give them a good run. Whether we beat them or not, that’s another story, but we’ll give them a run.”

A loss at the hands of the Salukis could hurt confidence, particularly on the men’s team.

Going into the meet, the men have a 10-0 record, and some team members believe adding another win would do wonders for team morale.

“It (a perfect record) gives more confidence in ourselves going into the rest of the season,” senior team captain Gord Veldman said. “So as far as confidence goes, I think it’s good that we win.”

While everyone admits that an undefeated season is definitely a goal, some believe the team performing at its best is what counts.

“It’d be great to go undefeated, but as long as we do our best then we’re happy,” freshman freestyler James Campbell said. “If we get beat by a better team, then it’s no big deal, but if we lose because we swam stupid races … it’s bad.”

Since returning from Christmas break, the Hilltoppers have shifted their focus. While dual meets are still important to the team, they are beginning to concentrate on the postseason.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will be heading to Michigan next month to compete in the National Independent Championships. However, the Lady Toppers will also defend their title as Sun Belt Conference champions in less than a month.

“There’s a big difference between dual meets and Sun Belt because Sun Belt’s a lot bigger,” sophomore Lori Ludwiczak said. “We work hard through the dual meets with practices, and then whenever it comes, it comes — to bigger practices like Sun Belt we start to taper and we start to rest our bodies.”

The women’s team lost nine seniors from last year’s team and has to heavily rely on freshmen. Their youth caused some to question the team’s ability to have a strong season. The Lady Toppers have responded with a 15-3 record to this point.

“I have high expectations for our team,” Ludwiczak said. “I think we’re going to do well at Sun Belt. I think we’re gonna win.”

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