Swimming and diving season preview: Team of many

The fifth and final in a series of previews featuring winter teams which begin competition in November. Previous previews include: men's squash, women's squash, women's basketball, and men's basketball.

LEWISTON, Maine – Bates College swimming and diving looks to challenge the top half of the NESCAC with full teams on both the men's and women's sides of the program as head coach Peter Casares enters his seventh season at Tarbell Pool.

"I think the team goals this year are to get the women to start battling for that third and fourth spot in the conference and to get the men back into the top half of the conference in that fifth to sixth position," Casares said.

With a roster that includes 32 women and 28 men, Casares feels that the program has the kind of depth it needs to make a breakthrough to the next level. Those numbers include 18 seniors and juniors on the women's team and 10 seniors and juniors on the men's side which will provide experienced mentors for the team's sophomores and first years.

"This is really a group that from top to bottom, from first year to senior, has had the same vision and message sent to them, and they're all on the same page," Casares said. "It's really been fun to see what their goals are, where they want to head, and what the program is capable of accomplishing."

Creating Depth and Continuity

When Casares took over the program prior to the 2007-08 season, the swimming and diving team consisted of 25 total athletes. Casares made recruiting a team with closer to 60 student-athletes one of his initial priorities, and the 2013-14 season marks the first year in which the program will both reach that number and include a balanced team between men and women.

"One of our original team goals for this program was to get our men's and women's programs up to 30 men and 30 women so that we could bring a full roster to the conference meet since you can score 24 athletes at each meet," Casares said. "This is our first year that we've had those numbers for both squads so we're feeling great about our depth."

With a complete team in place and a strong foundational message resonating throughout the program, the Bobcats will seek to continue to make strides this winter.

"More than ever, all 60 of them are truly on the same page," Casares said. "We should have a solid dual meet record this year and a really strong NESCAC Championship meet at the end."

Goals and Aspirations

After finishing fifth at the NESCAC Championship meet in each of the last three years, Bates' women's team will seek to better that mark while the men's side hopes to improve on last season's seventh-place finish.

"The women's team has been deep for the past couple of years, and we've actually outswam where we've been placed on paper the last three years," Casares said. "Coming into the meet, we've always been seeded seventh, and we've left the meet the last three years fifth in the conference with some huge breakthroughs and some great performances at the end of the year."

"Our men's team tapered off a little bit last year, not because of a lack of performance, but because of a lack of numbers," Casares said. "Now with the bigger team, we should be able to score the points that challenge for that fourth, fifth, or sixth spot instead of holding on for the sixth to seventh area."

Bates' women's side will look to target the likes of Tufts and Middlebury as the Bobcats try to ascend into the NESCAC's top three and vault past some of the league's stiffest competition. The men's team will lean both on its upperclassmen as well as a first-year class of 15 student-athletes to score points for the team.

Team Character and Outlook

The Bobcats boast a number of veteran leaders who have contributed both athletic talents and intangible leadership qualities to the program.

"The senior leadership we have on the women's team is unparalleled," Casares said. "They've been a part of our top relays since their first years. They've been part of record after record that's gone up on the board. They've just been tremendous talents but even better at leading and at being teammates."

"On the men's side, we have three seniors. These three guys are all extremely special to the program," Casares said. "Whether it has been talent, humor, or hard work, they've all made an impact."

As the team continues preseason practices and prepares for its first meet, Casares admits that the team will have to make a number of improvements throughout the course of the season to achieve its desired level of success. With the program setting its sights on the NESCAC Championship meets in February, the process toward progress begins in November.

"We have big goals and big expectations, but we have a lot of work to do," Casares said. "I've told the team our identity will be forged in the last two weeks of the season. We have a lot of time before we find out how good we are and where we stand, but the journey to get there will be exciting because of all the ingredients we have in this year's program."