MELBOURNE, FL – It was a clean sweep for the Florida Southern men's swimming team Wednesday as the Moccasins claimed all three of the major postseason awards from the Sunshine State Conference. Mike Blum is the 2018 SSC Coach-of-the-Year for the third straight season, Matthew Holmes is the SSC Swimmer-of-the-Year, and Matias Lopez is the SSC Freshman-of-the-Year. The awards were announced following a vote of league coaches after the conclusion of the NCAA National Championships.
With Blum, Holmes, and Lopez this year's recipients, it marks only the second time one school has had all three major award winners in the same season. The first time also involved Florida Southern in 2012 when Duncan Sherrard was the coach-of-the-year, Luis Rojas was the freshman-of-the-year, and Jeb Halfacre was the swimmer-of-the-year.
Blum has been the SSC Men's Swimming Coach-of-the-Year in every season since his promotion to head coach. (He shared the award with Florida Tech's Justin Andrade last year.) With former coach Duncan Sherrard winning it four straight years from 2012-15, it means a Florida Southern name has gone on that award each of the last seven years.
Blum led Florida Southern to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Division II National Swimming & Diving Championships as the Moccasins extended their streak of top-five finishes to seven years in a row. The Mocs had the best finish for any team from the Sunshine State Conference after leading the league with 10 selections, making them one of only four men's swimming teams nationwide to have that many. For the second year in a row, all 10 came home with at least one All-American award and the seven medals they earned were the most for Florida Southern since 2013.
At the conference championships in February, Blum led Florida Southern to a runner-up finish that included a meet-high and school-record 10 gold medals. The Moccasins had 20 medals overall, which was also the most in this year's conference championship meet, and that helped them land a league-high seven swimmers on the All-Sunshine State Conference Men's Swimming Team.
Holmes is the third Moccasin to be named SSC Men's Swimmer-of-the-Year, joining Halfacre, who won the award three years in a row from 2011-13, and Robbie Swan, who won in 2014. The junior from Rockledge, Florida was the only SSC men's swimmer to win an individual national championship this year, lifting the trophy in the 400-individual medley. Along with his gold medal in the 400-IM, Holmes was a bronze medalist in the 200-IM, and his times in those two championship races were new Sunshine State Conference records. He also finished ninth in the 500-freestyle, picking up an honorable mention All-American award in that event to go along with his two first-team awards from the individual medley events.
In addition to his two individual medals, Holmes added two silver medals in relay events by swimming legs on the 800-freestyle and 400-medley teams. He then helped the 400-freestyle relay team finish fifth, bringing his total All-American awards at this year's national meet to six.
Prior to his outstanding performance at the national finals, Holmes won conference titles in the 200- and 400-IM, was runner-up in the 500-freestyle, and placed fifth in the 200-breaststroke. He helped the Moccasins' 800-freestyle and 400-medley relay teams win SSC titles too, all of which led to Holmes being named the Men's Swimmer-of-the-Meet. He was the first Moccasin men's swimmer to win that award.
Lopez earns SSC Freshman-of-the-Year honors after scoring in three events for the Moccasins at the NCAA Division II National Championships. The native of Asuncion, Paraguay finished seventh in the 200-back, 10th in the 400-IM, and 11th in the 200-IM. He was also a national qualifier in the 500-freestyle. Lopez had the best time of the season for any SSC swimmer in the 200-backstroke during the national finals, one of the three events in which he earned an All-American certificate.
At the conference championships, Lopez won the gold medal in the 200-back and barely missed two other medals by placing fourth in the 200-IM and the 500-free. He did pick up one additional medal though by anchoring Florida Southern's SSC champion 800-freestyle relay team.
Lopez, who tied Holmes and senior Luis Jasso for the team lead this year with 11 individual wins, is the third Moccasin to win the SSC Freshman-of-the-Year award in men's swimming. Rojas won the award in 2012, and Sean Kim did so in 2016. That's the most freshmen-of-the-year for any school in the SSC since the sport was adopted in 2011.