Andrew Holman | For The Duquesne Duke
The Duquesne women’s swim team has climbed into the national scene this year as a highly improved program looking to make some noise in the upcoming Atlantic 10 Championships in February.
The Duquesne girls rank inside the top 50 among mid-majors by CollegeSwimming.com, who also ranked them as a part of the 25 most improved women’s teams in the nation.
Head coach Dave Sheets attributes the improvement and success to a process that’s been ongoing in the last few years.
“[This is] the accumulation of the last couple years getting the right kids into the program,” he said. “Ones that want to be at Duquesne and that have a passion for swimming. That combination helps lead to a lot of that success and the growth of our program.
Most recently, the Dukes dueled Mount Saint Mary’s, winning by a score of 134-123. Gabrielle Sabilia, a freshman from Wooster, Ohio, finished first in both the 200 meter freestyle and the 200 meter IM. Junior Claire Nobles, sophomore Morgan Fink and freshman Abby Watson also captured first place in their individual events. As a team, the Dukes won both the 200- and 400-meter relays.
This was a great win for the Dukes, but Sheets said that winning the Magnus Cup at the Cleveland State Invitational was most crucial in terms of the growth of his team.
“Winning this event helped our team believe in how good we can be. We have built from this victory every week in practice. We take it with us every time we get into the water. It has allowed the girls to believe in themselves and realize how competitive they can be.”
Duquesne opened the season with a tough loss at home to the University of Toledo and then dropped their next two matchups against George Mason and Davidson. The Dukes went on to defeat Saint Francis in their next meet and they never looked back.
Since beating Saint Francis, Duquesne has wins over La Salle, Saint Bonaventure, Youngstown State and Mount Saint Mary’s. During this time the Dukes also finished 1st out of 10 teams in the Cleveland State Invitational and finished fourth out of 10 teams in the FIU Invitational led by a strong performance from junior Samantha Ray.
The final home meet of the season is Jan. 24 as Duquesne will battle the Marshall Thundering Herd, and will look to earn the seniors one final victory at Towers Pool. Duquesne will recognize six seniors: Sadie Clifford, Taylor Kane, Line Lovberg, Bret Luke, Grace Manfroni and Jamie Ruh.
“Swimming for Duquesne has kept me motivated to work my hardest in and out of the water,” freshman Gabrielle Sabilia said. “The upperclassmen, especially the seniors, have taken me under their wing and shown me how to compete at the collegiate level while having fun. It has been a really exciting season, every meet has been a new challenge, and we’re all really pumped for A-10’s.”
Following senior night, Duquesne will compete in the A-10 Championships trying to cap off a remarkable season with a strong performance against the rest of the conference.
“Expectations [for the Atlantic 10 Championships] are to do better than last year. We would like to compete for relay titles and some individual championships,” Sheets said. “It’s really all about our team collectively working together to achieve our team goal. Davidson coming to the conference adds another challenge, but we just want to do our best with regard to our program. We want to do the best that Duquesne swimming is capable of.”