After coming up just short in the Sunshine State Conference Championship a year ago, the Florida Southern College swimming team heads into this year’s meet with hopes of leaving with a conference title.

The men’s team, currently the highest-ranked team in the SSC, will head into the meet as the favorite to win. Head coach Duncan Sherrard acknowledged the different feeling that comes with being the favorite, but he said it will not have any effect on the Mocs’ preparation.

“From day one when I was hired here, I have prepared the team, every year, to be conference champions, “ Sherrard said. “If you aren’t looking to be number one, then why are we doing this? So we’re going to go out and execute the same way and hopefully bring home a championship.”

Sherrard also believes that his women’s team has a chance to follow up last year’s third-place finish by bringing home this year’s conference title.

“I think we’re in contention to win,” Sherrard said. “We have probably one of the best women’s teams. One thing that might hurt us is a little bit of a depth situation. But our goal is to try to win the meet so we’ll see how it works out.”

Posing the greatest threats to the Mocs’ conference title hopes, on both the men’s and the women’s sides, will be Nova Southeastern and Tampa. While Nova doubled as the men’s and women’s conference champions last year, the FSC men’s team may have a bigger bone to pick with Tampa after the Nova Southeastern Invitational in December.

While this meet was not a top priority for Sherrard and his team, Tampa took the meet very seriously and surprised the Mocs as they won by a narrow margin.

As surprised as the Mocs were by the loss, the real shock came with Tampa’s celebration, according to Sherrard.

“Some of the guys were pretty shocked by how Tampa reacted in that situation,” Sherrard said.

While annoyed by Tampa’s reaction, senior Bruce Janzen maintained that the meet was not all that important to the Mocs.

“It was a little early in the year to celebrate like you just won a championship,” Janzen said. “Good for them. They can have the Nova Invite, but I’m more excited about [the SSC Championships.]”

As he prepares his team for the conference meet, Sherrard will make sure everyone remembers Tampa’s celebration as well as he does.

“Trust me, I have a vivid memory of watching Tampa celebrate like they won a national title at a mid-season invite. I remember,” Sherrard said. “It’s probably going to help. I’ll probably remind the guys a few times as we prepare         for conference.”

While the incident was frustrating for the Mocs, it showed just how much it means for an opponent to beat them, that is a far cry from where the program was when Sherrard took over.

“I took it as a compliment that they were so excited about beating us after we didn’t even rest for the meet,” Janzen said. “I guess that’s a testament to how good our team has gotten.”

Janzen said he never had a doubt that Sherrard would turn the FSC program into a national contender, but he just didn’t realize how quickly his coach would do so.

“I knew it was going to be something special when he came here. I didn’t expect, I guess, to be so close to winning a national title by my senior year,” Janzen said. “I had hoped for it, but I didn’t really expect to be this good.”

The rapid growth of the program has Janzen aspiring for more than just a conference championship.

“Our focus is to win the national championship and conference is along the way,” Janzen said. “We also want to win conference, it isn’t something that we’re ignoring. But the focus is definitely on nationals.”

Although the Mocs have their sights set on a national title, Sherrard made it clear that they are going to the SSC Championship with one goal in mind.

“We want to win it,” Sherrard said. “We are going there to win that meet.”

The SSC Championships will be held in Clearwater from Feb. 13-16.

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