Nov. 13, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team has one last dual meet in the month of November – a head-to-head contest with regional rival Michigan State on Friday, Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. The meet takes place in East Lansing, Michigan, and is the last meet the Irish will compete in before traveling to the Hawkeye Invitational at the University of Iowa in early December.
“We’re excited to leave campus and swim another Big Ten opponent,” Irish head coach Matt Tallman says. “We’ve had quite a few good dual meets with them over the years and we’re just looking for the opportunity to enhance our resume moving forward.”
The Irish are 2-2 in the season so far, having won the Dennis Stark Relays and besting Pittsburgh in last weekend’s double-dual meet. They were narrowly out-swam by Purdue, 161-139, and put up a valiant fight against defending Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champions Virginia Tech.
Tallman was impressed with his team’s performance, saying, “Our guys are stepping up in whatever lane they’re given. We want them to continue to race well, but more important, to race smart and race quickly.
“This will be our last meet before heading to the Iowa Hawkeye Invitational, which is a big stepping stone towards determining our final selections for the end of the year,” he elaborates.
Two swimmers in particular stepping up for the Irish are veteran NCAA swimmers Zachary Stephens and Jonathan Williamson. Stephens took first in almost every event he swam in the ACC double-dual meet with Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, merely coming in second as a member of the 400 medley relay team. Williamson finished fourth in the 100 fly (49.39) and took second in his signature event, the 200 fly (1:49.75) at the same ACC meet. Both seniors are pushing to qualify for the NCAA Championship this year, after having swum in the national meet both in 2013 and 2014.
“NCAA cuts aren’t the easiest thing in the world to achieve. B cuts aren’t out of the realm of possibility, but just continuing to do better this semester is what we want to focus on,” Tallman says. “We’re certainly swimming well, but we just want to continue to see progress and people doing things the right way.”
Adding depth to his roster, Tallman’s sophomores and juniors also stand to play a role in the team’s goal to qualify 10 or more swimmers for NCAAs this year. In particular, sophomore Tom Anderson and juniors Bogac Ayhan and Matthew Buerger have staked their claim as the Irish backstrokers in 2014-15 and are joined by freshman Robert Whitacre.
“Tommy [Anderson]’s got his sights set high on making the NCAAs this year, especially in the 400 IM,” Tallman muses. “Bogac [Ayhan] and Matt [Buerger] are both capable of doing that in the backstroke events. Add in Rob [Whitacre], and all of them are the core of our backstroke relay guys.”
Perhaps a dark horse for the Irish, junior Andrew Jensen has come in to his own this season, finishing fourth in both the 100 breast against Purdue (57.22) and in the 200 breast against Virginia Tech/Pittsburgh (2:05.76).
“Andrew Jensen is swimming out of his mind right now – and we’re excited to see that,” Tallman admits. “Hopefully he can step up and stand side by side with our top dogs in breaststroke, and grow into playing a leadership role as a senior next year.”
Not to be forgotten, Notre Dame’s freshmen have settled in to the Irish meet rotation and have begun to make immediate contributions. Freestyler Justin Plaschka earned a pair of first-place relay finishes against Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech in the 200 free relay (1:21.94) and the 200 medley relay (1:30.68) before out-touching the Hokies’ CJ Fiala to win the 50 free, 20.67.
“Our freshmen are adapting very well and coming around – they’re pretty positive about the results they’ve had so far this season, compared to where they would have been at this point in their senior year of high school,” Tallman states.
Also making the trek to East Lansing are the Irish’s six divers. Seniors Michael Kreft and Nick Nemetz respectively took second and fourth place against Virginia Tech/Pittsburgh in the 3-meter event, while Nemetz went on to win the 1-meter event with his 322.15 score.
Results from the meet can be found on Meet Mobile. Results and a full meet recap can be found on the team’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well.
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