Virginia Women Prepare for ACC Championships
Cavaliers seek seventh straight conference title, first under Busch
Throughout its 2013-2014 season, the No. 7 Virginia women’s swimming and diving team has been nothing short of spectacular. With an 11-1 dual meet record – the only loss coming against No. 6 Texas – broken school records and conference awards, coach Augie Busch couldn’t have envisioned more when he became the Cavaliers’ coach last summer.
Virginia will look to further cement itself as the conference’s top team this week when the Cavaliers will compete in the ACC Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Despite a thoroughly successful season, the ACC competition is stiff and the Cavaliers need to bring their best performance to come away victorious. The Cavaliers have won six consecutive ACC titles dating back to 2008.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Busch said. “We just need to go in with a fighter’s mindset and just expect nothing to come easy.”
While some teams with Virginia’s résumé might coast into this weekend’s competition, the Cavaliers have used their storied history as motivation.
“It’s definitely a thought,” senior Emily Lloyd said. “Going into this meet every year with that burden on our shoulders that you have to win again, not only for our team, but also for all the alumni that come before us. We’re swimming for them too. We’ve already gotten emails from past alumni who have been part of past championship teams knowing that they’re rooting for us. It’s just exciting. You know that you’re part of a dynasty and you need to keep it up.”
Busch’s presence marks the difference between this year’s competition and previous years. While former coach Mark Bernardino would allow more time for his swimmers to taper heading into the ACC Championships, Busch has stated all season that his focus is on the NCAA Championships.
“We’re definitely not focusing as much on tapering our swimmers who have already made NCAAs,” Lloyd said. “There’s definitely more focus on NCAAs this year than there has been on ACCs in terms of the training standpoint, but in terms of excitement and mental attitude, we’re as prepared as we were in past years. It’s going to be different, but I also think that our team is faster this year and more talented and that’s why we can afford to wait until NCAAs to taper our biggest stars.”
This year, the Cavaliers will bring 17 swimmers and two divers to the conference championships. These swimmers will include freshman Leah Smith, sophomore Courtney Bartholomew and junior Ellen Williamson. Virginia claimed four consecutive ACC Female Swimmer of the Week awards in January and February. Smith won two of the awards, while Bartholomew was also honored for her performance in November’s Ohio State Invitational.
“It’s awesome and gives us a lot of confidence,” Lloyd said. “The best part is that it’s a different swimmer every week. It just shows how deep our team is and how much talent we have to bring to the surface. It just gets us excited.”
Busch has allowed his swimmers more breaks in their dry-land training in recent weeks. This extra rest should increase Virginia’s endurance and give the team the ability to finish strong in the final stretch of races.
“Just giving them more time away from heavy lifting, that’s the key.” Busch said. “It’s something I knew I didn’t do enough of in the fall. … That’s the big difference. We’re being smarter with taper and dry-land. We’re just being smarter with all things that swimmers need for rest.”
As usual, Virginia will compete against a very strong field in this year’s championships. The Cavaliers are one of four ranked ACC teams, among No. 9 North Carolina, No. 21 North Carolina State and No. 24 Notre Dame. Virginia edged North Carolina thanks to a strong performance by Williamson and also handled NC State with relative ease earlier in the season.
“I’m confident we’re going to swim well,” Busch said. “I really don’t get caught up in winning. I just want us to swim well. I want everyone to take advantage of opportunities and we’ll see what happens from there.”
The championships will begin on February 19 and conclude on February 22.