Swim and dive moves from CCSA to ASUN conference

The Liberty women’s swimming and diving team is ready to jump into its new season after switching from the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association, or CCSA, to the ASUN conference for the 2023–24 season. 

The Lady Flames have won six CCSA championships, with the last five being consecutive victories, under the direction of 14-year Head Coach Jake Shellenberger. 

“The biggest challenge is outdoing our team from last year and previous years,” Shellenberger said. “Our challenge is last year’s team and last year’s success — how do we build on that?” 

The team hopes to continue its success, looking to claim its first ASUN championship in February at Allan Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

This is the first year that the ASUN will sponsor swimming and diving.

“We’re excited to join the ASUN,” Shellenberger said. “It’s nice that a conference wanted to start swimming and diving and sponsor the sport, and just the idea that we’ll have a home that’s an all-sports conference.”

Photo by: Chase Gyles

In the ASUN, the Flames will be joined by Bellarmine, Florida Gulf Coast, Gardner-Webb, North Florida, Queens and UNC Asheville. Together, these seven teams will represent the ASUN, the Big South and Conference USA. 

The Lady Flames look to also take on teams not in the ASUN conference as they prepare to head to ACC powerhouse Florida State University for a highly anticipated meet on Sept. 29–30. This will be the first time in their program history that these two teams will compete against each other. 

“I think our team as a whole is extremely excited for an opportunity to race against an ACC school,” sophomore Isabelle Gomez said. “And with that, we’ve been training to the best of our ability.” 

Also joining Shellenberger and the Flames at FSU will be Georgia Tech University, another challenging nonconference opponent. 

“We’re looking to show up and exceed expectations, and no matter the result, we are looking to walk away better competitors, athletes and champions for Christ,” Gomez said. 

Photo by: Chase Gyles

Although an ASUN Championship is the end goal, Shellenberger hopes the challenging schedule this season will better prepare his swimmers and divers for the next level. 

“We’re looking to get NCAA qualifiers; we’re looking to get Olympic trials qualifiers,” Shellenberger said. “You know, that’s the challenge for us – that next level of competition and then just trying to be better than we were last year.” 

This year, the Flames welcome seven freshmen to their mainly veteran core, which includes 10 seniors, nine juniors and 10 sophomores. 

“Recruiting is always a competitive point for us … The idea that we’re trying to get better and better recruits every year,” Shellenberger said.

The Lady Flames dive into their schedule with an exhibition meet against the University of Lynchburg on Sept. 26 at the Liberty Natatorium before heading on the road for their next three meets. They will be back in action at home to close out their fall schedule, hosting the fifth annual TYR ’85 Invite from Nov. 17–19.

 Pais is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion

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