For UCLA’s divers, there is one major factor that stands out about the women that make up the team – their age.
As both a small and a young team, consisting of only two freshmen, two sophomores, one junior and not a single senior, the team faces what some might see as a disadvantage.
However, the Bruins do not necessarily take their inexperience as a negative thing.
Rather than fear the worst for being a team so young, junior Montana Monahan thinks this is exactly the kind of thing the team needs to improve.
“It is a young team, but I think that’s what we need this year,” Monahan said. “I think we need to change directions from my previous years. I feel like it’s a fresh start. We can really get the ball rolling the way we want to get it rolling.”
The divers got their season started this past weekend at their first meet, the Trojan Diving Invitational, where they showed they would not let their lack of experience get in the way of how they compete. Sophomore Annika Lenz placed third overall in the competition, and junior Montana Monahan finished right behind her in fourth. Even freshman Maria Polyakova, who took her first dive ever in a collegiate meet, aided in the team’s success by coming in first place in the 1-meter springboard event.
With their impressive first-meet results, the divers can take comfort knowing that being young doesn’t mean they aren’t ready to compete at high levels.
They can also take pride in the idea that being a team of so few and being so close in age has become an advantage when it comes to the team rallying together.
“It’s been weird not having any seniors, but we are really close to each other in age and just as a team,” Lenz said. “We do a lot of things together.”
The connection that the women have formed with each other is evident even at practice. There, the teammates can be seen rooting each other on as each person gets set for her dive. They are also able to get a few jokes and laughs in as they pass each other moving from platform to platform, showing that they really are more than just members of the same team – they’re friends as well.
Coach Tom Stebbins said he’s more than aware of this bond that the team shares. Like the divers, he believes this is something that will lead to a successful year for the team, because it means that the girls will have someone to push for besides themselves.
“They are all really friendly with each other,” Stebbins said. “They’re really encouraging with each other. They work really hard for each other.”