BRENDAN KING | STAFF REPORTER
One senior and 14 freshmen. Some coaches might be fearful of starting an athletic season with a team composed this way.
However, this does not apply to Butler swimming coach Maurice Stewart—who has such a team this season.
Stewart said he is as excited as ever for the swim season to begin.
With so many freshmen on the roster—as well as 11 sophomores—a lot of teaching and learning will take place in and out of the pool.
Stewart said the upperclassmen are playing an even larger role than they might normally, since the team is so young.
“A lot of success of the program is because of leadership,” Stewart said. “Girls like (senior) Kaitie Ring and (junior) Hayden Engstrom have helped the transition for the team. They are a very important part of our success.”
Stewart said it is going to be a new situation compared to high school for every freshman.
“We really want to make sure we embrace the situation,” Stewart said. “Each of them has a nice background. They all had good high school and club team careers. They need to understand the workload of college swimming, however.”
To help comprehend and manage that workload, the team is utilizing a big and little sister program.
This program pairs a returning swimmer with a freshman swimmer. The returning swimmer then educates the new Butler student-athlete on all aspects of college life.
“Not only do they educate them on academics, but they also help them make important life choices in college,” Stewart said.
When teams have strong chemistry, it generally helps breed success. Stewart said the bond is already strong between the coaching staff and teammates.
“We really started off really well,” Stewart said. “We are doing a nice job of guiding our freshman class. Everyone is on the same page, and our expectations are very high this year for being in the Big East.”
Stewart was busy recruiting this year’s class of swimmers from all over the nation.
The team is composed of recruits from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Minnesota and Colorado.
For freshman Sarah Baggette, a Glen Carbon, Ill., native, it has been a new situation for her being away from home. But she said she has enjoyed her time at Butler so far.
Baggette said the big and little sister program has worked well for her.
“(Being on the swim team) been a lot of work, but I’m really enjoying it,” she said. “The upperclassmen are great. They are really helpful, and it’s nice to have so many older girls to talk to about problems with school or anything.
“It’s a really good support system, especially since it’s the first time I’ve been away from home.”
With all the team chemistry being created, Stewart said the team’s goals will be larger.
“It’s really great to be back,” Stewart said. “It’s our first year in the Big East. We are excited to be competing for a college championship.”