October is considered a busy month for many of the Montclair State University athletic teams, with football, field hockey and soccer preparing for postseason runs in the future. On the other hand, both the men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams are just beginning their respective seasons, and both squads are optimistic for a great 2019-2020 season.
As for the men, the team is currently sitting at an 0-3 record to begin the season, opening with a loss to Drew University on Oct. 11 (115-162), then dropping two more to Division I programs in Monmouth (52-206) and Seton Hall (53-230) in a tri-meet on Oct. 18.
Head Coach Brian McLaughlin believes his men’s squad has done a good job this season despite the rough start. He recognizes this year’s men’s team is much smaller than usual, as they only field a 12-man roster.
Graduation losses hit the Red Hawks hard as nine seniors graduated last season. This has undoubtedly made it harder to compete against teams with much larger rosters.
“[Having a smaller roster] doesn’t give you as much latitude as far as moving swimmers around between events,” McLaughlin said. “With a larger team such as our women’s, it gives you more options, so it can be a challenge at times not having that.”
Despite the struggles of having a smaller roster, a big addition to this team has undoubtedly been freshman Samuel Golovin, who currently holds the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s top times in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly events.
Coach McLaughlin had high praise for Golovin, who believes that he will elevate the rest of the team as well.
“I and my staff believe that he will have an incredible four years here at Montclair State,” McLaughlin said. “He will elevate everyone’s performance on the team because you’re practicing with a guy who’s very driven.”
Despite being a freshman and already being a top star for the Red Hawks, Golovin does not necessarily feel that the pressure of succeeding will affect him negatively.
“I just feel like I have to keep doing what I’m doing, and continue to work hard and support my teammates,” Golovin said. “It’s been going really well for me at Montclair State so far, so I haven’t really felt pressured.”
Golovin isn’t the only swimmer that will be huge for the Red Hawks this season, as sophomore Greg Karback (distance freestyle) and senior Kevin Gibson (freestyle) will be huge for this team, as both were all-conference selections a season ago.
All three will be huge for a team that is facing historically low numbers and will need everyone to step up this season.
“It’s all about stepping up and taking the places of those who graduated,” Karback said. “We want to try to keep the new freshman in line and make sure they do the things that they need to do.”
Karback and Golovin also had high praise for the leadership of Gibson, who fills a big role as one of the leaders of this young Red Hawk team.
“He’s a really good leader, and he really paved the way for me as a freshman last year,” Karback said. “Even though he’s a silent leader, everyone still follows him.”
As for the women’s team, expectations run high after an 8-2 season and multiple all-conference returners coming back for another season.
The talent is clearly evident on this team, as the team will return several swimmers from last year. The Red Hawks return an astonishing five record holders, such as the senior trio of Claire Luigard (breaststroke/IM), Margaux Winchock (sprint free/butterfly) and Madison Franke (sprint freestyle).
Other record holders coming back include junior Emily Rothamel (backstroke/freestyle) and sophomore Taylor Waddleton (backstroke/freestyle). All five were all-conference selections and extremely successful last season. These swimmers will provide a spark to a team mixed with experience and newcomers.
While the women’s squad has started out at 1-2, those two losses came to top-level Division I programs. However, Waddleton sees these meets as a good challenge for them.
“It was a big mental and physical challenge for us to face Monmouth and Seton Hall,” Waddleton said. “It was tough for us not to win and get the times we wanted though, but it all about pushing through that and keeping a positive mentality.”
Coach McLaughlin believes that while last year’s team was very good, this year women’s team has the recipe to be even better.
“I believe this team will be a little better from last year’s squad since we brought in a solid freshman class to supplement our top-end swimmers and three divers,” McLaughlin said. “This women’s team will be complete all the way around outside of maybe one event.”
The Red Hawks have a very deep team with many experienced swimmers, but their secret weapon may be their diving. Despite the graduation of All-American diver Grace Nielsen, the Red Hawks bring back two veteran divers, seniors Ponse Ibrahim and Kyra Sheenan, as well as bringing in freshman diver Hannah Goldhaber for added depth.
Waddleton spoke highly of the divers, particularly Goldhaber. She believes they play a huge role in the success of this team.
“They will really help us rack up the points during NJAC play,” Waddleton said. “People sometimes downgrade divers, but our divers work just as hard as us in terms of achieving our goal.”
The Red Hawks were selected to finish second in the preseason NJAC poll that came out earlier this month. With expectations higher than ever for a program that looks to be on the rise, the team has the wooden and gold trophy in sight.
“We are really focused on claiming the title this year, especially the TCNJ, Ramapo and Rowan meets,” Waddleton said. “We are locked in for those meets so we can win it all this year.”