After beating only a handful of teams last year, the Butler women’s swim team faces a huge challenge in moving to the Atlantic 10 Conference this season.
Despite the lingering competition, the non-scholarship squad has a positive outlook that it will have a good season, particularly in the classroom.
“I think, at first, we were definitely kind of nervous about (the conference switch),” junior Rosalie Fidanze said, “but it’s exciting to get a new set of teams to compete against.”
A goal exists for the Bulldogs to beat a certain number of teams this season, as well as hit particular individual times. Aside from all other goals, the team has historically pushed for, and held, just under a 3.5 GPA as a group.
“We’ve been a scholar All-American team every semester since I’ve been here,” junior Lauren Lambrecht said. “We realize that the A-10 is a very challenging conference, especially for us being non-scholarship.”
Lambrecht said, at least in the pool, it’s mostly about getting people into finals at the conference meet and making sure everybody is meeting personal goals. And as one of just a couple of A-10 teams without divers, Butler is at an immediate disadvantage.
But the team makes up for it in the classroom. Since 2004, Butler has been Academic All-American every semester. Teams have to pull a 3.25 GPA or better to qualify, and upperclassmen on the squad are confident that the trend will continue.
“A lot of our goals are GPA-related,” said sophomore Lauren Scotti, who said women’s swimming has had the highest team GPA on campus for a while. “We have a great group of freshmen who came in this year, and we’re really expecting a lot from them.”
Coach Maurice Stewart said the move to the A-10 is an exciting time for the university and athletics, and that he’s equally excited for the largest freshman recruiting class women’s swimming has ever had.
“It’s 14 girls who bring a lot of talent and a lot of good background that’s going to help elevate our level of competitiveness,” Stewart said. “They will hopefully set the tone for where we eventually want our program to go, which is to be competitive in the A-10 Conference.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but I think these girls are beginning to realize and embrace the challenges that we have. I’m confident that they’re going to—at the very least—help us move into becoming a team that can have a potential to be competitive in the A-10 Conference.”
But the expectations don’t stop at the end of the pool. In addition to the historically-high GPA for Butler’s campus, women’s swimming was actually a top-five academic squad in the nation in 2008 holding a 3.63 average to rank the team fourth in the nation for Division I squads.
“It’s getting harder and harder to get into Butler,” Lambrecht said, “but I really think (the freshmen) will be able to help us out both in the pool and in the classroom.”
The main focus before the next competition is simply racing, making sure the swimmers are totally ready and pushing all the way through each event, as well as tweaking some of the little things.
But the Bulldogs are ready to put in the work and is excited about upcoming events.
“I feel good about the season,” Fidanze said. “We have a lot of new freshmen and a good amount of returners, and I think the balance between the two and the talent on the team is going to be good.”
Butler takes on Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Eastern Illinois at the IUPUI Natatorium on Oct. 19.