Feb. 24, 2015
ATLANTA, Ga. – The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team finished their second season in the ACC with an even, 6-6 mark. School records were broken, pool records obliterated, and yet: the season’s not quite over. Wednesday through Saturday, the Irish will see 16 swimmers compete in the four-day ACC Conference Championships, hosted this year at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center.
“I hope our team accomplishes what we came here to do; if we swim smart, we should end up somewhere in the top half of the meet,” Irish head coach Matt Tallman says. “Anything better than that would be really good for us. We have a bit of a deficit to overcome, and if we can finish somewhere around fourth or fifth from the swimming end, we’ll see where that puts us when we add diving in to the mix.”
Four of the team’s six divers competed last week at the ACC Diving Championships. In the 1-meter, sophomores James Lichtenstein and Joseph Coumos just barely missed the top-8 cut to advance into the finals; their scores of 314.40 and 313.90 left them in 10th and 11th place, respectively. In the 3-meter, Coumos had the highest score for the Irish with his 331.20 mark, good for 15th, while senior Michael Kreft finished close behind in 17th (327.40). In the platform event, all four divers – Lichtenstein in 19th, Coumos in 20th, Nick Nemetz in 21st and Kreft in 24th – all finished well out of contention.
At the swimming championships this week, traditional ACC powerhouses North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina will give the Irish a strong fight, while former BIG EAST foes Pittsburgh and Louisville bring familiarity and their own set of challenges to the meet. Of the 13 teams competing, North Carolina State (seventh), Louisville (10th), North Carolina (15th), Virginia Tech (17th) and Virginia (25th) are all ranked in the CSCAA poll. Florida State is also receiving votes.
“Louisville is pretty good; they have a lot of highly seeded guys, not only in the conference but also on a national level. They’ve been top 10 at NCAAs in the recent past, and given our history with them at BIG EAST Championships, they will definitely be strong competition for us this year as well,” Tallman states.
While not currently ranked, the Irish were honored Monday afternoon with news that they had been named a 2014 Fall CSCAA Scholar All-America Team. Their team GPA of 3.13 was second only to Duke (3.17) among the ACC teams honored.
Of the 16 swimmers on site in Atlanta, 12 competed at last year’s championship meet. In addition to the six seniors swimming this week, perhaps the underclassmen – the sophomore and freshmen entrants -stand to make the most impact for the Irish. Additionally, several swimmers boast individual rankings in specific events led by senior Zachary Stephens, who ranks in the top 10 in the 50 free, 100 breast, 200 breast and 200 IM.
“Hopefully the seniors are excited for what could be their last – or at the very least, next-to-last – meet of their collegiate career, and want to end this thing with a bang,” Tallman says. “Our underclassmen know that we are just getting better every year, and they need to want to be part of something special in the future beyond what could be special this week.”
Stephens stands to be a central focal point for the Irish, after having won two individual events at last year’s ACC Championships and earning NCAA B-cuts in the 100 breast, 200 breast and 200 IM this season. Stephens is joined by seniors Cameron Miller and Patrick Olson as well as junior Andrew Jensen in the breaststroke events. Olson is also ranked in the top 10 in the 100 breast event.
Switching strokes, the Irish boast a mixture of graduating seniors and up-and-coming talents in the freestyle events. Joseph Petrone, Benjamin Jany, John Nappi, Trent Jackson, Kevin Bradley and Matthew DeBlasio all hope to fuel the team towards a top-tier finish in several distance events. Notably, Nappi stands ranked at 10th in the 1650 free after having broke the pool record at the Shamrock Invitational (Jan. 31). Justin Plaschka looks to fill the large wake left in the absence of graduated senior and two-time All-American sprint freestyler Frank Dyer in the 50 and 100 free.
In backstroke, freshman Rob Whitacre is joined by junior Bogac Ayhan and sophomore Thomas Anderson. Ayhan helped set a new program record at last year’s meet in the 200 medley relay (1:25.46), earning an `A’ cut in the process. Anderson also earned his own `A’ cut in the 800 free relay and set a program record in the 400 IM (3:45.82).
Admission is free for all fans wishing to attend. Preliminary swims will begin at 10 a.m. ET Thursday through Saturday, with the finals of each event contested starting at 6pm ET.
Wednesday, the 200 medley relay will be swum at 3 p.m. ET, followed by the 800 free relay at 4 p.m. Saturday, the 1650 prelims begin at 4 p.m. ET.
For those not in attendance in Atlanta, live results are available all week, while the finals sessions will be streamed live on ESPN3 Thursday through Saturday. @NDSwimming will have event-by-event results.
ACC Individual Rankings (Top 10 Only):
9. Zachary Stephens (20.02)
10. John Nappi (15:21.60)
3. Zachary Stephens (52.54)
10. Patrick Olson (54.62)
4. Zachary Stephens (1:55.49)
2. Jonathan Williamson (1:44.18)
1. Zachary Stephens (1:44.26)
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