There are big shoes to fill for LSU’s dive team this season.
The LSU diving team, ranked No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference, have big expectations this year. With great momentum from last season, the Tigers hope to carry on the success this coming season.
The Tigers graduated three seniors and lost two star athletes, Elizabeth Cui and Juan Celaya-Hernandez, as they train for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. In addition to having the top women and men's SEC team, the LSU dive team also achieved the highest-scoring SEC male diver and the highest-scoring SEC female diver last season.
“With losing Elizabeth Cui and her star performances throughout her career is a hole to fill and a void in the program,” said head coach Doug Shaffer, “but, with the upcoming strength of Aimee Wilson and Anne Tuxen being healthy and coming back into the program and freshman Haylee Montague, I see that we have strength, and I’m excited.”
The LSU women's dive team has been noted as being very competitive and hard-working throughout the SEC. Last year they had several medalists at the SEC championships, including a double-podium finish in the one-meter event.
“It's nerve-wracking and a lot more pressure,” said Aimee Wilson, the 2018-19 SEC bronze medalist. “but I’m excited to become a leader who future divers will look up to.”
On the men's side, they lost three of four competitors from last season, including key competitors such as Matthew Phillip and Matthew Mcclellan and redshirt senior, Celaya-Hernandez.
“Losing so many key players to your team always has an impact, but we have a lot of talented freshmen coming in,” said junior Dakota Hurbis. “The seniors really showed that working hard does pay off but that it’s important to relax and enjoy yourself along the way.”
The LSU men's team is adding two new additions this year. Cayden Petrak, born and raised St. John, and Emanuel Vazquez Bas, a native from Puerto Rico.
With the leadership of Hurbis, the Tigers aim at taking big steps forward and bringing the freshmen on board with the dynamic and big goals of the team.
“I’m hoping that I can take some of what I’ve learned the last two seasons competing and teach it to some of the younger divers,” Hurbis said. “I’m also hoping that with some of my extra experience I’ll be able to have my best season yet.”
Despite the loss of talent, the team’s future looks bright. Shaffer is going into his 18th year of coaching at LSU and has dealt with many shifts in the team throughout the years.
“Have fun, work hard, learn,” said Shaffer when asked for three words to describe the team. The team dynamic will continue regardless of who leaves or who joins because that is what the Tigers are all about.
The new Tigers will compete in their first intrasquad meet on Sept. 21 at the LSU Natatorium.