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Men’s Swimming: Familiar faces meet today

Brennan, Kevin | Friday, November 4, 2005

Pittsburgh is not used to finishing second. For eight straight seasons, Pitt captured the Big East title. Last year, though, Notre Dame dethroned the Panthers and won its first ever conference championship.

The two teams will meet again today in a head to head matchup at Pitt’s Trees Pool at 4 p.m. in Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame coach Tim Welsh doubts the Panthers have forgotten who stole its perennial crown a year ago.

“Take a guess whether we think they are going to be ready?” Welsh said.

As the top two programs in the Big East, the Irish and Panthers have developed an intense rivalry. In the dual meet held at Notre Dame last year, the Irish outlasted Pitt by 3 hundredths of a second in the final race to come out on top.

“It’s a very healthy rivalry. It’s very spirited,” Welsh said. “It’s made both teams better.”

The No. 19 Irish enter today’s meet coming off a disappointing loss at No. 15 Purdue. The Boilermakers defeated Notre Dame 182-118, but Welsh was encouraged by many of the times the Irish posted.

“Last week’s loss was disappointing to be sure,” Welsh said. “But we also had a number of events where we got faster.”

Nonetheless, Welsh knows the team must improve across the board to come away from Pittsburgh with a victory.

“There isn’t a single race where we would say right now ‘We are as fast as we want to be,'” the coach said. “We spent a lot of our training week this week looking at specific areas that we can improve in each of our races.”

Notre Dame expects to hold an advantage over Pittsburgh because of its superior depth. While the Panthers have a concentrated group of swimmers who post excellent times, the Irish rely on a larger contingent who all are capable of racing at the same speed.

Pittsburgh traditionally holds the edge over the Irish in diving, however. The Panthers return an experienced and successful group of divers and have added Alex Volovetski, one of the top freshman divers in the nation.

“Their divers have been the lead divers in the Big East for a long time,” Welsh said.

The Irish will counter with a young but talented foursome of divers in freshman Michael Bulfin and sophomores Mike Maggio, Sam Stone and Chris Kane. Bulfin has already established himself as the team’s top diver after just three career collegiate meets.

Notre Dame is excited to have the opportunity to take down its top Big East rival this early in the year.

“We’re eager for the meet and we are looking forward to the races,” Welsh said. “We know that in order for us to become the team we want to become we have to win tough meets on the road.

“We are eager for the challenge.”