MORGANTOWN, WV, December 27. HEAD coach Sergio Lopez and his staff are showing the West Virginia swimming and diving team what a huge difference just one year can make, according to a report written for the school by Scott Castleman.
As the men's (4-3) and women's (4-4) teams have both reached the midway point of their seasons, Lopez, an NCAA All-American and Olympic and world championship medal-winning breaststroker during his own days in the pool, says that the improvements he has seen as a first-year head coach have been tremendous.
"The coaching staff and I are very happy with the response of the team in and out of the pool," says Lopez. "So far the results in the pool have been very good and it shows that if we keep working this way we will be one of the top teams in the BIG EAST and we will hopefully have NCAA qualifiers for both the men and women."
While the men are off to a fast start the women are also off to promising start. With five dual meets remaining the team has already surpassed its win total from 2003-04 (3).
To date, the two teams have combined to qualify 22 swimmers for the BIG EAST tournament (13 men and nine women). Under Lopez the two teams have also combined to put up 24 times that rank in WVU's all-time Top 10 times in various events. Seventeen men have also already recorded personal bests on the year, while 13 women have done so as well.
"So far this season we have not rested or shaved to accomplish these times and it is something that the team should be proud of," says Lopez.
Arguably the Mountaineers' biggest breakthrough in 2004 has been the performance of freshman Pablo Marmolejo, who has already broken school records in the 200 fly (1:48.46) and the 400 IM (3:57.08). The Mexico City, Mexico, native's time in the 200 fly ranks him 22th in the nation at this time and his 400 IM time ranks 34th best. Marmolejo has already recorded 10 individual wins in his first year in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers have also gotten great swims from seniors Matt Drozd and Pedro Pinto, as well as junior Chris Hagedorn. Hagedorn's 50 free time of 20.27 ranks 16th best in the country and Drozd's 50 free time ranks him 47th at 20.57 seconds. Pinto's 49.41 second swim in the 100 fly ranks him 43rd.
Lopez believes that the early success has translated to a closer team away from the water. "Every meet that we have swum this first part of the season we have gotten better and as a team we have become a more cohesive unit and there is a lot of positive energy going around at practice and meets," says Lopez.
Both teams return to action when they host Syracuse at the WVU Natatorium on Jan. 14, beginning at 11 a.m.