By: Emily Gursky

The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything, including the lives of college athletes across the country—and the swim team at Mount Saint Mary College was no exception. The 2021-2022 season was going to be a fresh start for the Knights, because it had to be. They had a new head coach, and most of the team had been out of the water for two years. 

“We had to be very patient in the beginning making sure we got back into it,” said Chris Mance, who took over the coaching position in September. “There was too great of a risk that if we started working hard right away that they could get injured.”  

Because the team was adjusting to the sport all over again, Mance also said that his goals became more “process-oriented.” He helped them execute sets at practice each day with a mental focus, and the hope was that results would come by the end of the season if everyone trusted the process. To do this, he made sets that catered to each swimmer’s individual needs, whether they were working on improving their sprints, endurance, or threshold training. 

Results did become reality for swimmers like Joe Tagliareni, MSMC senior. Tagliareni was able to drop time throughout the season and nearly broke the school’s record for the 50-yard freestyle, while picking up four top-10 finishes at the Skyline Conference Championship meet. For him, Mance’s coaching style really seemed to work. 

“Coach Chris brought his vast knowledge and experience of swimming to the Mount,” Tagliareni said. “He really interacts with each of us to critique our strokes and ultimately become better swimmers.” 

This season sure had its challenges—having a late start, the pool being closed for repairs a few weeks in, basically half the team getting Covid right after winter break, you name it—but the close-knit team of eight never stopped having fun. First-year swimmer and sophomore standout Kitty Masayda couldn’t agree more. 

“Everyone is always laughing and cracking jokes,” she said. “I know everyone says that their particular sports team is like a family, but our team truly lives up to that.” 

Looking ahead to next season, Mance hopes to set the right tone for current and future Knight swimmers. He believes this is the biggest key to having a well-rounded, disciplined team. 

“If you set the foundation and culture right, success is not something that just happens,” he stressed. “It’s something that you can’t avoid.”