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‘Stepping up our game’

The Northeastern swimming and diving team opened the season last month with a win over Wagner. The Huskies will host Harvard for an exhibition meet on Saturday and then continue the regular season on Oct. 24 with a dual meet at New Hampshire.

We asked head coach Roy Coates and senior captain Sophie Browne about the team’s expectations, strengths, and leadership.

Last season, the team finished 7-4 and placed fifth at the CAA swimming championships, matching its all-time best finish at the league meet. What are the expectations for this season?
Coates: Our expectations are to be better than we were last year. We graduated some really good swimmers, and our hope is that with our strong group of incoming freshmen and one transfer, along with the improvement of the rest of the team, that we put together a group that can perform a little better than we did last year. That’s our mission—to keep building on what we had the year before.

Browne: I think we’re setting ourselves up for a good season. We’re definitely feeling like we’re ready to race, and we’re stepping up our game outside the pool, in the weight room as well.

What is the team’s biggest strength?
Coates: Our biggest strength is our depth. From top to bottom, I don’t think we’ve had a team as deep and talented as we have now. The talent of our depth is pretty remarkable. We don’t have any events in which we have major holes.

What is one area where the team would like to see improvement?
Coates: The biggest area of focus for us is the sprint freestyle events. They dictate a lot of what happens in a swim meet, because sprint freestylers anchor every relay. Sprint freestyle has a huge impact on dual meets and championships. So it’s always an area of concern, and it’s an area we want to improve in. But we have a lot of swimmers in those positions, so we hope they develop throughout the year to become a really strong group in every event, especially the freestyles.

Browne: As a whole, we can improve on paying attention to the small details. Our season is pretty long, so we need to focus on the here and now and making the most of each practice.

What’s the makeup of the team’s leadership?
Coates: We have two things going for us. We have three really good captains (two seniors, one junior) who represent different areas of the team. But we also have great leadership from the other seniors—Taylor Brew and Amanda Liew. They may not be captains but they are stepping up and taking leadership roles along with our captains.

As a senior captain, how are you approaching the season from a leadership perspective?
Browne: Our biggest focus is positivity. Our season is long, and it can be hard to stay positive if you’re swimming every weekend and not hitting your best times all the time. It’s part of the sport, but it can get to you mentally. So in my leadership role, I’m trying to make sure I’m being positive and approachable.

The team will host five meets this year, the most since the 2009-10 season. What does it mean to you to be able to swim at home that often this season?
Coates: That’s something we were very driven to do this year, to get more home meets, so our community—the students, faculty, staff, and parents—can see our team compete. It’s not only the comfort level, but also we really want to showcase our student-athletes to our community.

Browne: I’m happy my last season is ending that way. Swimming in your home pool that you practice in every day makes a difference.

What are your goals this season?
Coates: Our mission is to get every student-athlete to be better by the end of the season. Whether it’s a freshman or an upperclassman, swimmer or diver, we focus on making each athlete better and helping her perform at a higher level than ever before. And we let the placing take care of itself. One of our goals is to move up in the conference, but the way we focus on it is through the process of improving every student-athlete and getting them to compete at their highest level at championships.

Browne: This year junior Delaney Lanker and I started a bulletin board in our locker room where goals for each person are posted in three areas: the pool, the weight room, and the classroom. We’ve focused on short-term goals, and when you’ve accomplished a goal you take that card off the board. It’s easy to say you want to accomplish your goals, but to have it looking at you every day and then to take it down when you do it—I think it helps a lot.

Personally, when championships roll around, I want to be able to say I did everything I possibly could have, and that in my last race—the 200 backstroke, my best event—I gave it my all.

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