UNC Asheville looks to pick up where they left off: setting records


UNCA Athletics/Seth Maile

UNC Asheville’s swim and dive team look to make a splash this upcoming season.

Jared Feinberg, Sports Writer, [email protected]

Coming off a remarkable 2021-2022 season, UNC Asheville’s swimming and diving team looks to add on to where they left off going into the 2022-2023 regular season.

UNCA’s swimming and diving team finished the 2021-22 regular season with an 8-0 record, including an unbeaten record in conference play with victories over East Carolina, UNC Wilmington, Campbell and Liberty. The Bulldogs also finished third at the 2021-22 Coastal Collegiate Sports Association championships, their highest ever finish in a conference championship meet.

Swimming and diving head coach Elizabeth Lykins enters her 11th season with the Bulldogs since the program’s inception in 2012. After a record-setting year, Coach Lykins said the team and the staff made last year extraordinary. 

“Everyone’s unyielding drive and willingness to handle adversity allowed much of our success,” she said.

Both diver Morgan Coughlen and swimmer Rachel Daly said coming together as a team and supporting one another was a big reason why last season was so notable. 

“What made last year so special was being 8-0, but also how we came together as a team and supported each other throughout the swimming and academic year,” Daly said.

Coughlen said the team was always there for support, even if the divers were competing at a different area than the swimmers were. 

“Even though diving is sometimes at a different facility, we still always had our team there to support us, and we were always there to support them as well. Our team really knows how to have fun, while still staying focused on the task at hand,” she said.

Her 21st season as coach, Lykins said being a collegiate swimmer and teaching the younger children on her club team inspired her to get into instructing. 

“I was a collegiate swimmer myself and helped coach younger children on my club team growing up. I enjoyed the interactions and really thrived in a team environment,” she said.

Coach Lykins discussed how much she’d learned throughout her 11 seasons as the Bulldogs head coach.

 “I’ve learned it’s much more about the individual and her process than the outcome. Her journey is the most important aspect of her being a team member,” she said.

Both Coughlen and Daly have their own ways of motivating themselves before competing. Coughlen visualizes herself doing the dives in order to motivate herself, as well as the support from her teammates. “I often visualize myself doing the dive well in order to motivate myself, and my teammates also help to inspire me a lot. Listening to music and getting pumped up to compete also helps,” said Coughlen. Daly shared a similar direction when explaining what motivates her before the meets.

“I visualize my races and help calm my nerves by listening to some of my favorite songs, or by getting hyped up by my fellow teammates,” she said.

Daly said she faced some challenges last season when it came to training and meets from a physical aspect.

“I had a tough year physically, but both my coaches were very understanding and did what they could to help me through it,” she said.

Now healthy, Daly said she’s looking to best some of her times in meets this upcoming season.

“Now that I am feeling a little bit healthier than last year and with the help of my teammates, I feel like I am going to crush some of my times this year,” Daly said.

Coughlen has run into her own barriers as a diver, and said it can be a challenge to move on when faced with bad results. However, she also explained that putting the bad results behind her and keeping focused on the next dive helped her overcome these obstacles.

“No matter how much you practice them and have them consistent, sometimes things don’t always go as planned when competing. It is challenging to move on if you do not do so well on a dive. However, it is important to remind yourself that you can’t change the past and that you can just make your next dive that much better. Telling myself this helps me to overcome the past dive and get myself ready for my next dive and the rest of the competition,” she said.

Coach Lykins said student-athletes have their own unique challenges with managing time and striking a balance between their social and athletic lives.

 “Time management and life balance are challenges all students face, but often those who are overly involved on campus have to make choices and sacrifices to be successful in their endeavors,” she said.

Despite having nine of her student-athletes graduate, coach Lykins said she hopes to be deeper in individual meets this season while also adding depth with the divers. 

“Some incredible women graduated back in May, and there is no replacement for them. Thankfully we’ve filled those missing events and hope to be deeper in our individual medley events. We’ve also added two new divers, adding depth and talent to our five-woman diving squad,” she said.

Going into the new season Coughlen said she has her eyes set on besting some of her old records, all while having fun at every meet. 

“My goals going into this season are to break my records on the one-meter and the three-meter,” she said.

As for their expectations for the upcoming season, both Daly and Coughlen said they want to motivate each other and their teammates, all while trying to have fun cheering one another on. 

“​​I expect we will continue supporting each other and be number one at the conference. We have a very talented team, and I think everyone should come to see a meet and support your fast-swimming Bulldogs this year,” Daly said.

The Bulldogs have their intersquad & alumni meet on Sept. 17. They begin their season at the end of the month against East Carolina, with the divers competing on Sept. 30 and the swimmers competing the next day, Oct. 1.