Colorado State opens its 2015-16 season with a home meet at Moby Pool against New Mexico on Thursday at 5 p.m. MT. The meet features the ninth- and 10th-place teams from the 2015 Mountain West Championship. The Lobos won the regular-season meeting between the teams last season in Albuquerque, N.M., 174-126. Fans are encouraged to show up early, and free pizza will be given to the first 150 in attendance.
SEASON OUTLOOK – EXPECTATIONS
CSU is coming off its second-straight winning season, going 5-4 in dual meets last season. The Rams are aiming to continue to rise in the conference, and will lean on their young talent to do so.
“I think the expectations for us are definitely to improve,” Head Coach Chris Woddard said. “We landed a great recruiting class and so far we’ve been really impressed by our freshmen in our work outs. We lost a very good senior class, but our hope is that most of our talent is young and with another season of experience, we will be a much tougher team. The expectations are just to compete. We don’t know where we sit, but we will find out real soon.”
ON THE NEWCOMERS
The Rams are anticipating a lot of production out of their talented freshmen this season.
“I think all of the newcomers have impressed as far as their discipline in the water,” Woodard said. “The biggest standouts on the swimming side are Tonicia Thomas and Mackenzie Halligan. Mackenzie comes with a pretty big resume and we knew Tonicia was talented, but she has taken over leading sets in work outs and has been a vocal leader. We have been very impressed with those two.”
CSU boasted three all-conference performers last season – Katie Kicklighter (50-yard freestyle), Ariana Milone (1-meter springboard, 3-meter springboard) and Tess Simpson (100-yard backstroke). Both Kickligher and Milone return this season, and will figure to lead the Rams yet again.
Milone’s importance on the boards will be huge all season.
“She’s one of the best in the conference and one of the best in the nation,” Woodard said of Milone. “She will continue to lead and after last year, breaking both school records, she’s coming in on a high note and she is ready to rip for her senior year.”
Kicklighter, just a sophomore this season, will look to secure a lot of points in the pool this season.
“She sets the tone,” Woodard said of Kicklighter. “A lot of other athletes just look to her to lead the way and score some serious points and she rarely disappoints.”
ON THE BOARDS
Milone will certianly be productive for the Rams in her senior year, but there are still some personnel questions with a trio of freshmen entering the fold in 2015-16.
“It’s tough to lose a leader like Mary Kate Hardy, but Emily Williams is a great veteran who always gets results for us,” Woodard said. “It’s a new bag with three freshmen, who are all very talented and raw in their own way. I have no doubt that Kevin Witt will have them ready by the end of the season and they’re probably going to be scoring points for us. We will find out against New Mexico, who has traditionally been one of the better diving teams in the conference.”
Although the Rams had a winning dual meet record for the second-consecutive year, the Rams wound up taking 10th at the Mountain West Championship. CSU will aim to not sacrifice any success in the regular season while still climbing the league leaderboard at the end of the season.
“That’s been a real sticking point for us,” Woodard said. “We had some postseason success early when I was here, but then we realized we were sacrificing the entire season to get there. This year, I think the team has a little more depth and a little more toughness, so that we can swim tired and still get some wins. If we do that, we won’t get away too much from our training and focus for the offseason. We just have to have fun and relax and once we get to conference, and if we swim with a little attitude and with a chip on our shoulder and not be so intense.”
CSU will compete in the Mesa Invite on Oct. 9-10 before returning to Moby Pool to host Denver on Oct. 16 at 5 p.m. MT.
Swimming news courtesy of Colorado State Swimming & Diving.