CCSA champs now eye NCAA prize
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 23:09
The FGCU women's swimming and diving team expects to make quite the splash in its first post-season-eligible season.
With the Division 1 transition over, the three-time Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association champions anticipate qualifying swimmers for the NCAA tournament.
FGCU opens their season Friday at FIU.
The Eagles will also swim at Miami and against Florida State this season.
FGCU coach Neal Studd understands the intensity that comes with the D1 opportunity.
"It's hard to qualify for NCAA (tournament)," Studd said. "You're dealing with some of the fastest swimming in the world, faster than the Olympics."
Studd hopes to get a relay team to qualify; that way he will be able to see a lot more of his athletes compete.
Sophomore Christina Tanninen touches on the expectations that come with the title of a D1 team.
"I don't think it puts extra pressure on us, I just think it makes us more motivated to go to NCAAs," Tanninen said. "I think we've definitely pushed it to a new level, and we're all excited as a group."
In preparation for the new season, team members have been working on just about everything to prepare themselves.
They've worked on everything from underwater filming, to power tests and blood lactate tests.
Studd feels his team's strength lies primarily in the sprints, which subsequently contribute to strong relays.
Tanninen believes that technique is vital this time of year, before the season starts, in that it is the opportunity to fix all of the small things.
Each meet is a training session in itself.
With every event, each girl has something different to work on, which is exactly what the coaching staff is working to conquer in hopes of bringing a strong team together as a whole.
Even as they've dominated their conference in recent seasons, Studd promises to not look past anyone.
"In terms of our conference (CCSA), I don't think we really have any weaknesses," Studd said. "We have some pretty young divers and we're looking for them to step up. We are always looking for new ways to improve. Whether it's looking at our weight program, or our nutrition, we strive to improve in all areas, all the time."
Tanninen says it is difficult to consistently round up the same motivation and team-oriented focus workout after workout in a individual sport.
"As long as we work together as a team (we'll be fine)," Tanninen said. "A good mentality and a good attitude at every practice goes a long way. Sometimes it's hard to find the motivation after working so hard so much, so you've got to be on top of it. We all have to work together as a team even though it's an individual sport."
FGCU also has some big-name recruits coming in, with a freshman class that was ranked 24th in the nation by collegeswimming.com.
A key name Studd mentioned is Emma Svensson, a freshmen recruit from Sweden. Her signing was announced Tuesday.
Svensson is the Swedish national record holder in the 50 backstroke and is considered the best recruit in the history of the FGCU program.
Another swimmer who is expected to excel this season is junior Eva Lehtonen, who transferred from the University of Florida in the middle of her sophomore year. Lehtonen could not speak any more highly of how much better her experience at FGCU has been compared to her time with the Gators.
"I love it so much more here," Lehtonen said. "It's really a great team and there's a lot more of a team atmosphere."
Lehtonen looks toward this season with great anticipation and confidence.
"We've really stepped up the game this year, and I can even tell that coach (Studd) has stepped up the intensity on us as well. I think we're ready."
On top of handling a blossoming team of talented swimmers and divers, Studd also attempts to multitask the care of his new 3-week-old baby.
Studd explains that one of the biggest struggles for him this season is getting enough sleep so that he won't "be so grumpy" at practices. However, he expects the same of himself that he does for the rest of his team, "to leave practice knowing that I've given everything I could that day."