Feb. 1, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The No. 16 University of Michigan women's swimming and diving team enters an off weekend before next Friday's Senior Night (Feb. 8) and the Big Ten championship meet (Feb. 20-23). Last month the team concluded its training trip to Florida and then went 3-1 in meets, including a dual meet win over then No. 15-ranked Ohio State (Jan. 18).
Captains senior Val Barthelemy (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer), senior Kally Fayhee (North Aurora, Ill./Rosary), and junior Brianna Maroukis (Kalamazoo, Mich./Portage Northern) sat down to discuss the team's progress.
Q: You had a very busy January, what does a weekend off mean for the team?
Maroukis: I think it's good in the recovery process just mentally and physically. I know especially for diving it takes a lot of mental toughness when you have a meet every weekend, you can feel drained.
Barthelemy: It's nice to have the weekend off because we were able to plan some team bonding activities given that Big Tens are coming up soon. On Sunday we'll watch the Super Bowl together and we'll watch the men compete against Ohio State. It gives us a chance for some mental recovery and opportunities for team bonding.
Fayhee: It gives you an opportunity to think about the details as well, when you don't have a meet weekend you can look back at the past few meets and do some overview on what you did right, but also what you did wrong. That way you have many days to figure out where you could be better for the next meet and work on those details.
Q: Considering January has been a jam-packed month, how have you seen the team grow and change in the last 31 days?
Fayhee: We had our training trip in there and that was a huge part of January for us. It was team bonding in Florida with everyone for two and a half weeks. Swimming-wise we made a lot of changes and worked really, really hard. Team-wise it was great for team bonding. We spent a lot of time with each other and it was great for our culture.
Barthelemy: From that point on we had this foundation and we just went for it over the last few meets. I think what was interesting is that each week it felt like the momentum built and I think what really sparked it was that win over Ohio State. From that point on it has felt like we've been adding momentum as we get closer and closer to Big Tens. It's the perfect time to pick up speed. The team bonding aspect has really carried through all these dual meets. It's been a busy but good time for our team.
Maroukis: I really like that we had the training trip before all of this. It changes our thought process and then we had a whole month of meets afterwards. We needed to work hard and we needed to prepare. So the training trip gave us a few weeks with nothing else to do but prepare for when we got back to Ann Arbor.
Q: Why is the team bonding such an important aspect to your momentum?
Fayhee: Physically our teammates aren't (in the lane or on the diving boards with us), but mentally you know they're there. You're wearing the block M on your cap, you know that your teammates believe in the same things you believe in, they've worked and done the exact same things you've done. Physically they're not there holding your hand but you can look on deck and see every single one of those girls that have been there. You look them in the eye and they're all going for the same goal.
Maroukis: At the beginning of the year we went to a facility for some team bonding and I really, really liked that. We'd never done something like that before and I can really see a change in how vocal the girls are and how encouraging they are for one another.
Q: There is a lot of youth on the diving team, how have you channeled that into a positive for the team?
Maroukis: It has been a challenge not having any seniors but we all know that every single one of us is coming back next year so I think it's made us closer. We know we'll have the same team next year with a couple of great additions.
Barthelemy: We've had that situation on the swim team. What's cool is that we were able to build relationships and grow. And with all the changes that we've been through I feel like that's made it easier to face those challenges and changes. It's exciting as the team continues to change under this new program; we'll see the diving side continue to grow.
Fayhee: Having a younger team, freshmen always bring in some type of lightheartedness. They come in not knowing the culture and seeing them fully embrace it and buy in 100 percent has helped create this atmosphere that's really fun. It's fun to have six freshmen that are always there smiling. It's contagious.
Maroukis: I think they also bring a sense of innocence. When I was a freshman I was just happy to here and going with the flow.
Barthelemy: It's a nice reminder that we were the same way our freshman year. It really helps the atmosphere and chemistry of the team.
Q: From the outside it looks like you guys are really hitting your stride, especially with the huge win over Ohio State. What's it like on the inside?
Fayhee: I can honestly say I have never been on a team like this before. This is a new team with a new culture, and that's a lot of what the coaching staff brought in. I think every girl has bought in 100 percent. What people on the outside are seeing is that culture that the coaches created. Everyone is excited about it and I'm excited to see what the end of the year will bring. We just keep proving people wrong.
Q: What's the focus on now to keep this positive momentum going?
Barthelemy: We have traditions that we do leading up to Big Tens and those things solidify the work we've put in, both in the pool, on the boards. You want to go in there focused but you want to make sure everyone is relaxed and ready to take anything on. We'll continue to encourage the things that are natural to our team right now -- that will be our big focus.
Fayhee: A main thing is to make sure people stay grounded. There's a tendency to get worked up and overthink things. At Michigan, we enter moments that are bigger than ourselves. Big Ten Championships are just another meet, there's a lot of pressure and publicity, but we need to remember that we've put in the work, and now it's time to put it into practice.
Contact: Michael Kasiborski (734) 763-4423