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Upperclassmen have helped swim and dive maintain undefeated record under new coach

Senior Kenisha Liu said she and the other seniors of UCLA swim and dive have been working hard to lead the Bruins this season through a coaching change, a move that seems to have paid off, as the team is 6-0 in dual meets this season. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

By Coral Smith

Jan. 8, 2020 2:04 a.m.

As the Bruins opened their fall season under direction of a new coaching staff, the upperclassmen kept the transition smooth.

“It’s just important to lift one another up, whether it’s in practice and in and out of the pool,” sophomore Claire Grover said. “We’ve all been working together, and the seniors have been leading us.”

UCLA swim and dive (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) has yet to suffer a loss in dual meets over the first four months of the season, even with new coach Jordan Wolfrum leading the Bruins for her first year. But despite the new leadership, the seniors have played their role in influencing their more junior teammates both in and out of the pool.

“I would say that I think our team culture has been really good this year with our new coaches,” said senior Kenisha Liu. “We’ve really just accepted her and trusted her.”

Wolfrum was hired in June, since former head coach Cyndi Gallagher retired at the end of the 2018-2019 season after running the program for over 30 years. Since the team had spent their entire college careers with Gallagher, Liu said both the athletes and coaches had to work together to create a team camaraderie amid the changes, which has paid off in the form of wins.

“I think both sides knew what they needed to do – we needed to trust her – but Jordan also knew she needed to earn that trust, so it was just embracing our situation, and leaning on each other, and just learning to trust and roll with it,” Liu said.

That team building has paid off in the form of dual-meet victories, including two wins against currently ranked Pac-12 opponents No. 22 Arizona and No. 21 Arizona State. Wolfrum said the seniors’ experience is the greatest influence they have, as they keep the less-seasoned players calm under pressure.

“In our senior class in particular, we have a lot of experience, a lot of two-, three-, and four-time NCAA appearances,” Wolfrum said. “That experience and that steadiness allows us to go into these dual meets and just get to work, to be able to have confidence in what we’re doing, and take each meet for what it is and just kind of not have big emotional ups and downs.”

UCLA most recently defeated UC San Diego on the road last weekend, winning 11 of 12 individual races and setting two pool records in the meet.

Among the swimmers who won races were Liu, who won the 200-yard freestyle, and senior Amy Okada, who won the 200-yard butterfly.

But the seniors don’t just make contributions to the team in their own races; they also guide the freshmen and sophomores through the transition to college swimming. The underclassmen found their own success in San Diego, when nine of the 11 individual race winners were freshmen or sophomores.

Liu said she bases her style of leadership on the lessons she learned as a freshman, which have inspired her to impart the same messages to the freshmen on this year’s squad.

“The captains from my freshman year really knew how to get the job done, and coming into college, it’s just a whole new experience, and it’s very different from club swimming, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Liu said. “But they led by example, and I think it’s kind of showed me how to lead not only by telling people what to do, but also by showing, which I think is a really important thing to do.”

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Coral Smith | Sports senior staff
Smith is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the gymnastics and softball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the softball, gymnastics, women's volleyball, swim & dive and rowing beats. Smith was previously a staff writer on the softball, women's volleyball, rowing and swim & dive beats.
Smith is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the gymnastics and softball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the softball, gymnastics, women's volleyball, swim & dive and rowing beats. Smith was previously a staff writer on the softball, women's volleyball, rowing and swim & dive beats.
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