With all of the leadership, experience and accomplishments that left the Desert Vista girls swimming program, about the only thing left was the water in the pool.
But the Thunder have more than survived.
Desert Vista is thriving with youth, a new leadership group, and plenty of talent to keep things rolling. And after finishing second twice and fourth last season at the state tournament, the Thunder have shown they just might be able to keep up with the precedent set in recent years.
"We lost a lot of leadership with the graduation of Katie Olsen, Lauren Torres and Stephanie Shober," Desert Vista coach Shawn O'Connell said. "It's a team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores, and not many seniors. They are adapting well and they are getting experience."
After Thursday's 116-66 win over Mesquite, Desert Vista is 3-1 in dual meets. The loss came against Xavier, which is to be expected against a program that has won 25 state titles.
O'Connell always uses the meet as a test to see where the team stands.
"Most programs go through cycles, but they just replace," O'Connell said of Xavier. "We definitely use them as a gauge. There is a lot of work to be done. Some of the girls were shell shocked at how hard Xavier came out.
"It was a great lesson and gives us an idea of what to expect."
While several athletes are contributing, juniors Mary Geavaras and Mickey Melosi have taken over the roles left behind by Olsen and company.
"I went to Katie for advice," Melosi said. "I hope the younger girls feel they can do the same thing if they need to. As you get older it is what you are supposed to do as a leader."
Melosi focuses on the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke, and expects to top last year's 12th- and seventh-place finishes, respectively, in those events at state.
"She is right where she was last year at this time, if not a little ahead," O'Connell said. "We have to keep her fresh. If she focuses too much on one thing, it dulls her too much and she over-thinks. We will mix it up and bring her back to her top events."
Geavaras is switching things up already after finishing eighth in the 50 free and seventh in the 100 free at state. This year she will most likely compete in the 100 breaststroke and 100 free.
"She came in with experience in the breaststroke and we kind of get away from it," O'Connell said. "She can do several (events) so we will see how it goes."
O'Connell said Geavaras has expressed a desire to develop into a leadership role.
"She is quiet by nature, not shy, but reserved," O'Connell said. "She came up and talked to me about being more involved and wanting to get to know her teammates better. It's a good step in her growth and the team's development."
Geavaras, who competes in club swimming with Sun Devil Aquatics, said she is ready to clear any hurdle in order to get ready for state.
"I'm pretty close to the best times of last season," she said. "I am looking forward to state because I know I can do better. I have to make sure I make every practice and don't lack in my work."
The boys team is off to a good start as well, losing only to Brophy, while beating Mountain Pointe and Mesquite along the way.
The team has been led by Mark Young, McKay Tanner and Shawn Chester.
"They are getting us really ready for individual meets," O'Connell said. "They have really made sure they were prepared to compete against a couple of teams we maybe shouldn't have beat on paper."
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