Tough regular season primes UNC swimming and diving for NCAA Championship success
But he had a plan.
The Tar Heels went 1-6 in dual meets this season. One of those losses came on Jan. 28 against Duke. It was the first dual meet loss to the Blue Devils in DeSelm’s career.
Still, DeSelm knew the disappointment would make his team stronger, and they would benefit when it really matters: the NCAA Championships.
He was right.
The Tar Heel women’s team finished 17th, its best finish since 2013. Three team members reached All-American status for the Tar Heels, and four more were All-America honorable mentions for North Carolina.
Hellen Moffitt finished second in the 100-yard butterfly and eighth in the 100-yard backstroke, becoming the first Tar Heel to earn All-American honors in both events since 1981.
“I have been swimming both of these events on the same day since I was a freshman,” Moffitt said. “I’ve never done that well in both, so being able to do that as a senior was really cool, and it was really exciting to see that hard work pay off.”
The grind planned in DeSelm’s schedule certainly left the Tar Heels well prepared. The NCAA Championships are always the biggest test of the season, and this year was especially challenging.
“This was a tough national,” diving coach Abel Sanchez said. “It was one of the toughest nationals I have ever encountered.”
The Tar Heels rose to the challenge, but they aren’t stopping there. Elissa Dawson, who earned her third straight All-America Honorable Mention with a 10th-place finish in the 3-meter springboard, is already setting goals for her senior year.
“I have high expectations for myself for next year,” Dawson said. “And I think it’s possible to accomplish these goals by buckling down for next year and giving my team that top finish at NCAA’s.”
Dawson’s lofty goals are a product of the environment set forth by Sanchez and DeSelm — and DeSelm’s tough strategy for dual meets paid off in the end.
“It is gratifying to see and have the team see that when things are not going as well as you would like them to be going, stay the course,” DeSelm said. “Keep on committing, keep striving, keep holding teammates accountable and keep working hard. Do not give up, because oftentimes when you put that energy and emotion in when things are not going quite as well, it’s going to get better.”
“And it did.”