“We’re really eager and excited to mix it up with some great competition,” said Coach Rich DeSelm.
“These teams are highly ranked. N.C. State’s men and women are stellar. Virginia’s women could be a team that could vie for the national championship, and their men are much improved over the last year.”
In a senior night unlike any other, the Tar Heels’ Class of 2016 has the opportunity to cement its legacy. Competing against three conference rivals in a 24-hour span is no easy feat, especially when coupled with the emotional toll of the seniors’ final meet in Chapel Hill.
“We are definitely in the midst of getting ready for ACC’s, but we’re not quite resting yet,” senior Annie Harrison said. “We’re racing tired, which means we have to race tough. That’s probably the biggest challenge to overcome, but it’s something that we’re definitely ready to handle.”
Luckily, the Tar Heels have been preparing outside of the pool all season for a situation like this.
In anticipation of the slew of intra-conference competitions and the upcoming championship season, DeSelm utilized UNC sports psychologists Dr. Bradley Hack and Dr. Jeni Shannon.
“You know, swimming is so mental,” senior Mitch DeForest said. “There’s a lot of things going through your head, so it’s been helpful just to have (Hack and Shannon) give us some tips and tricks on what to do when negative thoughts creep in or when the pain comes along.
“Being present is a big part of that. Focusing on what you’re doing now, not the future and not the past.”
The Tar Heels will rely on that mental toughness and leadership from their senior cast when they have to report to the pool at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning before squaring off against the Blue Devil men (6-3, 2-1 ACC) and women (7-2, 3-0 ACC).
But DeSelm believes his teams are up for the challenge.
“It will be draining and tiring. It’s Duke’s senior day on Saturday, and I think that’ll be exciting for Duke,” DeSelm said. “But we’ll rise to the occasion. It’s probably the best Duke team we’ve faced in 10 years.”