When thinking about the difference between an average team and a great team, experience is one of the things that comes to mind. Especially in collegiate sports, it is important to have experience and the knowledge of how to handle certain situations. It’s also important that underclassmen lacking that experience have resources to come to when they get in those situations.
Nebraska’s swim and dive team has more underclassmen (20), including six freshmen and 14 sophomores, than upperclassmen (17), comprised of 11 juniors and six seniors. But to say that the Huskers don’t have experience because of their young team is not true at all.
Like any team, captains are usually voted on by the players, and the swim team is no different, just with an added twist that head coach Pablo Morales put into the process. The players are put to a vote, and those candidates who want to continue to be a captain have to address their teammates in a very formal manner and speak about what will make them a good captain.
The team selected two juniors as captains this season,Autumn Haebig and Izzie Murray, who had to go through the process just like the rest of the candidates. Haebig has already made strides in her career at Nebraska, including accomplishments like being an NCAA championships qualifier, three-time Olympic trial qualifier and Nebraska school-record holder.
Aside from the two junior captains, there are plenty of underclassmen with accolades. For example, sophomore Audrey Coffey is also an Olympic trial cut qualifier and a Nebraska school record-holder. Freshman Berkely Livingston was the Nebraska Swimmer of the Meet at the Nebraska High School State Championship in 2019. These swimmers along with sophomore diver Sara Troyer, who won all four of the Huskers diving events this past weekend, are just a couple of the bright performers the Huskers have on their team.
Getting those underclassmen to mesh with the team quickly is no small task, and it begins with the team’s veterans.
“As a freshman, we were given buddies, which at the time I had a super-senior,” Haebig said. “Their main focus is making sure that everyone feels like they are at home, which really helped me out because I’m nine hours away from my home.”
The team might be young, but Nebraska’s leaders have pushed the newcomers to be the best that they can be.
Haebig said the team works to better all members at all times, whether during practice or at meets. So, even though the team is younger, they all work together to make sure that everyone is included and no one is going into a race unprepared.
A lot of what makes a team work is how the coaching staff creates an environment for success. Morales makes it so that anyone is able to step up on the team to speak and lead.
“Our success this year, from a performance and a leadership standpoint, depends on them and what they can bring to the table,” Morales said.
It's a common saying that teams are only as strong as their weakest link — sometimes that refers to experience and sometimes it refers to age. But with the Huskers, those two factors don’t affect them as a whole, as they have been able to create an environment in which no matter what age or level of experience players have coming in, they can succeed to the best of their abilities.
“We had a great senior class that graduated last year,” assistant coach Patrick Rowan said. “So, this year is kind of a blank slate … the team can make it whatever they want to be.”