The girls' swimming program at Lakeland Union High School has historically finished in the upper half of the Great Northern Conference, but last season the team took a dip.
The Thunderbirds were a young squad, and as a result, went just 1-5 in dual meets and placed fifth in the GNC meet.
The program is getting re-shuffled this season as head coach Sandy Bolger moved out of the area and a pair of familiar faces have stepped in.
Chris Garcia and her husband, Robert, have spent three seasons coaching the boys' team and have now been tapped to take over the girls' squad.
"Some of these girls I had in club when they were younger and almost all of them I know from my daughters being on the team," LUHS head coach Chris Garcia said. "Robert and I are just thrilled that we're getting the opportunity to work with them again. A lot of them, it's going to be their senior year and these are the girls who were in club that we had an opportunity to coach them, but when they got to high school we had to sit back and watch. So we're excited to get back to coaching them."
The Garcias, who guiding the Lakeland boys have gone 27-3 in dual meets and have finished no less than second in the GNC, including an undefeated season last year, wasted little time setting their expectations for the girls on the first day of practice on Tuesday.
Not only do the Garcias have high expectations for the team as a whole, but for girls to set lifetime-best times and achieve individual accomplishments.
"My expectations are that everybody comes in with a really great attitude," Garcia said. "That they come prepared to work and they know it's not going to be easy, but the rewards of hard work are worth it in the end. I think they're going to be happy with their progress. We're going to shoot for lifetime bests by the end of the season. I just want these girls to go faster than they've ever gone."
Most of what the coaches use for the boys' team will duplicated for the girls' squad as well.
From practices to expectations, the Garcias are hoping to carry nearly everything over, including an emphasis on versatility.
"It's going to be fairly similar," Chris Garcia said. "I'm hoping to do a lot of technical work with the swimmers. If there's somebody that has a particular stroke as their strength, we will work on that. These girls that are on this team are really well-rounded. Most of them can swim just about any stroke and I want to have the same flexibility that I had with the boys' team, where I need somebody to swim a particular event that may not be their strong point but they're still going to do really well."
While swimming is an largely an individual sport, there are significant team elements and the coaches hammered that point home with the team before they hit the pool for the first practice.
Garcia guaranteed that her team would not finish fifth at the GNC meet or place at the bottom of the standings in sectionals.
"I would like to be in the top three in the conference," she said. "I would like to give Tomahawk and Ladysmith a run for their money. I think we can. I think we have the talent on this team to do that if they want to work hard enough."
Lakeland opens the season with a triangular meet at Wausau West on Monday, Aug. 21. The meet also includes Rhinelander.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.