Matt Sellman knows how to sell the goods.
In six years, he’s transformed the Pacific Lutheran University women’s swimming program from down-and-out to up-and-coming.
And he’s taken pointers from everywhere he’s been in orchestrating the turnaround. Consider:
▪ He’s a former All-America swimmer at PLU in the early 1990s, so he carries the pride of a former Lutes standout.
▪ At his first head coaching position at Lewis & Clark, Sellman said he learned a lot about team bonding in his six seasons with the Pioneers.
▪ And at his last stop — the University of Mary Washington in Virginia — he studied how great programs sustain success in the four seasons he was that university’s coach.
“You take a little bit of everything and apply it,” Sellman said.
The Lutes’ women enter this weekend’s Northwest Conference championships at King County Aquatic Center as the heavy favorite to capture their fourth league title in a row. Ten days ago, they defeated Puget Sound to conclude the regular season, winning their 22nd conference dual meet in a row.
In fact, this senior group of women have gone 27-1 in NWC action for their careers.
“It is pretty exciting,” Lutes senior Erica Muller said. “Our class brought in good, positive energy, and we’ve benefited a lot because of that.”
When Sellman was hired in the summer of 2010 to replace longtime PLU swimming coach Jim Johnson, he had an idea of how he was going to rebuild the program.
“My first job was to create a culture, and an expectation and a direction for the type of program we wanted to be,” Sellman said.
He first established an unbending level for excellence, and preached that over and over.
“There were moments I had to drop the hammer,” Sellman said. “Anytime you go through a growth process, you are going to have people flounder from time to time.”
Along the way, he made sure to emphasize to his swimmers to share the good times as well.
“I try and be a fun guy,” Sellman said with a grin. “Some of my athletes look at me having high intensity, but we’ve created a fun pool deck.”
Muller shared one example: On Fridays the team doesn’t have dual meets, Sellman holds relay competitions among his swimmers.
“He likes us to get up for it to race against each other ... and get that competitive vibe going,” Sellman said. “It is fun, because we all cheer for each other. And the thing about swimmers, they like to compete.”
Sellman said the next logical step for this program is to climb the ranks nationally.
“The kind of kids coming in now, they are here because they want to be part of something like this,” Sellman said. “They have high expectations. They want to work hard. And they want to be part of something fun.”
After a weekend sweep at Lewis & Clark and Willamette, the Puget Sound women’s basketball squad is up to No. 6 in the d3hoops.com rankings. It is the Loggers’ highest ranking since 2004-05, when they were No. 4. ... Post player Jamie Lange is the NWC women’s basketball player of the week after averaging 19.0 points and 12.5 rebounds per game during weekend play. ...
On the men’s side, PLU guard Brandon Lester was the NWC men’s basketball player of the week. He scored 29 points in the Lutes’ win at Willamette on Friday, and 21 points in a loss Saturday at George Fox. ... The Lutes suffered a big blow in depth this week. Guard Erik Swartout is out for the season, and is scheduled to have Tommy John surgery Thursday after he tore a ligament in his elbow during a weight-lifting session. ...
Puyallup product Marissa Miller was named the NWC softball player of the week. She threw a complete-game shutout for PLU in its season-opening 9-0 victory over Pomona-Pitzer. She also picked up another victory against La Sierra.