With fewer swimmers, RU builds strong bonds
With almost three weeks remaining in the season, the Rutgers swimming and diving team’s primary focus is preparing for the AAC championships. The tournament runs from Feb. 19-Feb. 22.
But when the season ends, the Scarlet Knights will face the same dilemma every college program has when losing its top seniors.
Diving captain Nicole Scott, 200-fly school record holder Brittany Guinee and swimming captain Allyson Perrotti will be hard to replace, but the Knights team-first mentality should aid in the eventual departures.
“I run a program where on my team, everybody matters,” said head coach Phil Spiniello. “Everyone plays their role, everyone does their role and its part of the success. We don’t have different levels of athletes. It’s everyone helps as a family and we win as a team and lose as a team, and that’s the mentality that we try to portray.”
Part of that strong team bond comes from its roster size. The Knights have 21 athletes on the current roster.
To put that in perspective, 10 of the 12 current programs in the Big Ten conference, which Rutgers will join next season, have 28 or more athletes.
Since the team is lacking in quantity, the Knights must rely on everyone to do their part, including larger roles for the underclassmen.
The philosophy creates a strong relationship among teammates and allows younger swimmers to contribute and be exposed to pressure situations.
“That is one of the reasons why I came here,” said sophomore swimmer Morgan Pfaff. “The team is special in the way that every single person matters. … And it’s always extremely emphasized that we are one and one person can contribute, but that’s not how you win championships. You have to have teams and everyone contributing.”
Saturday’s dual meet proved a perfect example of how the team operates. The Knights claimed 11 of 16 events as seven different swimmers captured victories.
Among them were Pfaff and sophomore swimmer Joanna Wu, who are both making large contributions to Rutgers’ success this year.
Freshmen have also contributed. Rookies Rebecca Gross and Rachel Stoddard have made an immediate impact, both claiming two second-place finishes in their respective events.
“I think making [freshmen swimmers] feel like part of the team right away is important,” said senior swimmer Mary Moser. “We give everyone an equal chance to score so they can get in as many races as they can throughout the season.”
So while important seniors depart, a new crop of freshman will emerge and the team-first philosophy will stay unchanged.
“When I recruit an athlete I recruit people who want to put the team first,” Spiniello said. “Yes, this is an individual sport, but I think our whole team atmosphere is part of a greater good. … And that’s why we’re seeing success.”
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