Dec. 12, 2017
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” As students across campus enter final exams to close the 2017 fall semester, the University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have many reasons to be proud of the first half of the season. Ranked victories, program records, times within NCAA qualification standards. It was a banner opening act for the Irish in the season’s initial months.
“Without question, it’s the most challenging dual meet schedule that we have had in our program’s history and the result is that the athletes have responded,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Litzinger said. “Putting ourselves through the gauntlet early with No. 1/9 Indiana, No. 7/9 Louisville and No. 15/5 Texas A&M, we’ve kind of established our place in the swimming world. The goal was to challenge our athletes to see how they would respond and to serve notice that we are on our way to some great things.
“As we hit the end of the semester, the focus now dials into the ACC Championships,” Litzinger added. “We have a few dual meets and an invitational along the way but our main focus is performance at the ACCs to qualify for NCAAs. We have been fortunate enough to already have a number of people position themselves to make the NCAA Championships. To have that opportunity this early in the season for Notre Dame is a huge step forward. We are taking the right steps and the momentum is going to continue.”
Early Ranked Triumphs Power The Irish Autumn
The Notre Dame women’s team, ranked 22nd in the most recent College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) poll, raced out of the blocks to a 6-1 dual meet record that featured wins over No. 9 Louisville (Oct. 7), No. 16 Purdue (Oct. 27) and No. 9 Indiana (Nov. 9). The No. 20 Irish men’s squad has added a 5-2 dual mark that included victories against No. 7 Louisville and No. 23 Purdue.
“I didn’t expect us to come out of the fall with the records that we have, we are better than I projected at this point and that is a pleasant surprise,” Litzinger said. “I just wanted our athletes to know what they would see at the end of the year and get used to matching up with high-level competition. The response in practice has been great, and when we have translated that response to competition it has worked out really well.”
Notre Dame closed its fall schedule with a pair of third-place finishes at the Ohio State Fall Invitational that was held Nov. 17-19 in Columbus, Ohio. The Notre Dame men’s team scored 676.50 points in a field that featured No. 5 NC State, No. 16 Ohio State and No. RV Kentucky, while the Irish women secured 656 points against No. 12 NC State, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 23 Ohio State.
Top Performers/Performances Of The Fall Semester
Standout performances so far this season for Notre Dame have included sophomore Abbie Dolan, a two-time ACC Women’s Swimmer of the Week (Oct. 10 and Nov. 14) and the CollegeSwimming.com National Swimmer of the Week (Oct. 10). Dolan, who owns the fastest all-time Notre Dame women’s swims in the 100 and 200 freestyle, has posted NCAA B-cuts in both distances along with the 50 freestyle thus far in 2017-18.
Freshman men’s swimmer Zach Yeadon, who shared ACC and CollegeSwimming.com national honors with Dolan on Oct. 10, has already established Notre Dame team records in the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyle events. Freshman classmate Lindsay Stone has also made waves in distance freestyle, setting Irish women’s swimming records in the 1000 and 1650 freestyle.
The rise of the younger guard of the Notre Dame roster, combined with the continued emergence of key upperclassmen, has been the Irish recipe for success.
“We’ve got upperclassmen who have positively responded to the change in the program (the last three seasons),” Litzinger said. “Rob Whitacre has put himself in a great spot right now, Justin Plaschka, Daniel Speers, Alice Treuth, Molly Treble, they have all responded very well to the challenges that we have put in front of them and have the chance to be in great positions at the end of the year. Other athletes, particularly the freshmen Zach Yeadon and Lindsay Stone, have taken over the distance records in our program and have put themselves in a position to compete at NCAAs. It’s exciting as that is a part of our program that we have wanted to build, and it’s happening.
“Also in that freshman class is Carly Quast, just off our 100 backstroke record and in a good spot for the end of the year,” Litzinger said. “Then you have Sadler McKeen, an up-and-coming athlete. We also have the returning 3-meter ACC diving champion in senior Joe Coumos, along with a talented sophomore in Claire Andrews on the boards on the women’s side. We’ve got a great blend of experienced athletes and new blood coming in to where we are a pretty formidable dual meet team, now we need to put it together for a championship meet.”
Looking Ahead To The Spring
Following the completion of finals this week, and a brief holiday break, Notre Dame will ramp up preparation for the second half of the season with a winter training trip at the end of December. The stretch run of 2017-18 officially commences on Jan. 12, with a tri-dual meet against Iowa and Illinois in Iowa City.
“The goal is to put the final touches on our training base,” Litzinger said. “Once we regroup again in Naples, Florida, at our 10-day training camp, there will be some conditioning but by then our focus will almost completely be on race preparation. That’s a big shift for all our groups and something that we need to do because the reality is, when school starts in the middle of January it’s four weeks until the women’s ACC Championships. We’ll have to start resting and dialing in our championship attitude.”
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball, men’s soccer and swimming and diving programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.