After he returned to campus following a long four days at the Pacific Collegiate Swim and Dive Conference Championships last week, head coach Byron Davis took a moment to reflect on how far Master’s aquatics has come in just one year’s time.
The program’s growth isn’t only demonstrated by the sheer number of athletes it will send to NAIA nationals next month, but also by the well-rounded nature of the traveling party.
Master’s will be represented in Knoxville, Tennessee, by two individuals (one man and one woman), eight relays, and a diver.
“We’ve come so far even just from last year alone,” Davis said. “Adding to the men’s team and having predominantly freshman on the team and all of those freshmen going to nationals for the first time is exciting.”
The arrival of four accomplished men’s swimmers before the season and the emergence of Lezly Plahn and Xavier Gutierrez as dual stars during last week’s conference finals have infused TMU aquatics with even more momentum than it possessed after its women’s team made a strong showing at nationals during the program’s inaugural season last year.
Plahn hit her third NAIA “A” standard on Saturday when she finished the 100-yard freestyle in 54.41 seconds. She secured “A” cuts in the 50 free and 100 backstroke earlier in the week.
Plahn, a junior, said she didn’t expect to qualify in the 100 backstroke because she hadn’t competed in the event since her freshman year of high school.
“Coach said, ‘You have individual events or relays every day except for this one. You could do the backstroke or the butterfly.’ And I said I’d way rather do the backstroke,” Plahn said. “He threw me in there to see how fast I could go, and I ended up getting it. “
Plahn would be the program’s second woman in as many years to swim three individual events at nationals. She said the 50 free is her favorite.
“Because it’s the quickest and you have to go all-out,” she said.
Plahn was part of TMU’s 400-free relay that qualified for nationals on Saturday in 3 minutes, 55.79 seconds. She was joined by Madison Eaton, Simone Williams and Faith Cancik, whom Davis credited for swimming an exceptional anchor leg.
“Everyone stepped up and played their role,” said Davis, whose women’s team will send 200-free, 200-medley, 400-free and 400-medley relays to Knoxville, where they’ll be joined by Mustang diver Courtney Simpson. In addition to the group that swam the 400-free relay Saturday, Alisal Perez, Selma Matiashowski and Yasmine Corel have also factored into TMU’s relay success.
For the men, Gutierrez hit the NAIA “A” standard in the 100 butterfly on Friday. Like Plahn, the event was not part of Gutierrez’s original plan this season, but at Davis’ suggestion, he took on the challenge.
Gutierrez, a freshman, has also hit the “B” standard in the 50 and 100 freestyles this season, and because he was a member of TMU’s nationals-bound 200-free, 200-medley, 400-free and 400-medley relays, he can add one of his “B” cuts as a bonus event.
Mazen Hussien, Raymie Matiashowski and Brandon Watson, all freshmen, are the other members of TMU’s men’s relays. The groundbreaking foursome will be the first men to represent Master’s at swim nationals.
Mustang basketball to host Westmont on Saturday night
Master’s men’s and women’s basketball will host Westmont College at TMU on Saturday night in a pair of highly-anticipated games.
The women’s game at 5:30 p.m. will pit No. 2-ranked Master’s against the No. 4-ranked Warriors, with first place in Golden State Athletic Conference standings on the line. Both teams enter the game at 14-1 in conference play with three games remaining.
The men play at 7:30. TMU’s men are currently four games back of first-place Westmont, but the Mustangs remain firmly positioned for an at-large berth to the NAIA national tournament.
For more information on Master’s Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.