Nov. 16, 2017
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The final competitive test of the fall semester awaits the University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams this weekend, as the Irish travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take part in the Ohio State Fall Open Invitational. Notre Dame is one of 21 total men’s and women’s teams set to compete in the three-day invitational meet from Friday through Sunday at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.
“As you go into a three-day invitational like many of the teams across the country are doing this weekend, there are a few ways to approach it,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Litzinger said. “You can pull the plug on your training and say here is what we have done in the fall, we are still going to swim ultra-fast. We still had a weight training session on Monday, we did pull back on the intensity of our practices and the length, but we are not yet all the way where we want to be.
“We know that we are going to swim fast at Ohio State, the environment will lend itself to swimming fast, but the reality is we are going to save it for the ACC meet in the spring,” Litzinger added. “We are going to see the true nature of this team in February and March at the NCAAs, so this is a little taste to have some fun, swim fast and together, perform on the boards and see what it gives us.”
Building On Momentum From IU And Cincinnati
This weekend’s Ohio State Fall Open Invitational is the first meet for Notre Dame since the women’s squad upset No. 9 Indiana 123-120 and downed Cincinnati 205-38 and the men claimed a 182-61 win over the Bearcats and battled No. 1 Indiana to the end in a tri-dual meet on Nov. 9 in Bloomington.
“On the women’s side, the effort showed our depth,” Litzinger said. “We only won five events out of 13 events in that meet so the lion’s share of wins went to Indiana, but we found a way to win the meet. It is unusual but not at all surprising to me because I know the depth of our team, and that’s what we’re building our foundation on. Four great athletes across the board in every event. When you have wave after wave of that coming at you, you can have a superstar, but the team that competes as a team is the one that is going to win.
“I challenged the group, both the men and the women, to take a step forward against Indiana and to raise their level because at the end of the day you are going to have to always raise your game,” Litzinger added. “They did exactly that. On the men’s side, even though we were missing Rob Whitacre, the younger swimmers filled in and we still went one-two in the backstroke. Indiana’s men’s team is exceptional in many events but they were touchouts, no blowouts. It was a title fight on the men’s side without a TKO, there was a decision. It went down to the last few events where we wanted it, and I think we walked away with a feeling that we can compete with these top teams and that we are a top-15 team in the country. We are starting to act like it on a daily basis in how we prepare.”
Fast Teams Await In Columbus
Other ranked teams swimming alongside the No. 13 Notre Dame men’s squad this weekend include No. 5 NC State, No. 16 Ohio State and Kentucky, who is receiving votes in the CSCAA coaches poll. The No. 18 Irish women’s team will match up against No. 12 NC State, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 23 Ohio State among others.
Preliminary heats will begin at 11 a.m. (ET) on Friday, and will follow at 10 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Event finals are slated to start at 6 p.m. on the opening two nights before closing at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“You’ve got an NC State men’s team that just knocked off the reigning NCAA champion Texas,” Litzinger said. “Both the men’s and women’s teams at NC State are the reigning ACC champions, so they will definitely be ready to swim and dive well. Kentucky also will. Pitt is under a new coaching staff so we will see some great things from them. The host Ohio State saw their men finish second in the Big Ten last year and their women are a dynamic team, so it will be a great pre-championship type of setting. You will have to be on your game to do well at this meet and that is what we have talked about with our team, be ready to take on all comers and see what you can do.”
Irish Competitive Schedule Over Until January
The Ohio State Fall Open Invitational will be the final official meet for Notre Dame of 2017. The Irish will resume their schedule on January 12-13, 2018 in a tri-dual meet against Iowa and Illinois in Iowa City, Iowa.
“It can’t come at a more opportune time because you’re headed into the holidays and then final exams, where then the focus will shift back to training,” Litzinger said. “It’s a different kind of training because you have September, October and November behind you, so you’re trying to balance that continued base work with the demands academically. The goal that we’re looking at after this week is to be consistent in strength training, practice, and continue to give a good effort to get through final exams. When we return after holiday break then we ramp everything back up, but in terms of the newer kids most of them are used to swimming fast at this point because high school state championships and junior nationals are taking place right now. It’s not unfamiliar territory for them, and it gives them a chance to show that they have been in this scenario before and show what they can do at the college level.”