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Women’s Swimming: Drowning the competition

Greg Arbogast | Monday, February 20, 2006

Although it had to hold off a determined Rutgers team, Notre Dame returned to South Bend victorious this weekend after capturing its 10th straight Big East title Saturday night in East Meadow, N.Y.

Notre Dame’s victory gives it a place in history, as the Irish have tied the record for the most consecutive Big East titles in any sport.

The Irish women now share that honor with the Pittsburgh men’s swimming and diving team, which won every year from 1983-92.

The Irish and Scarlet Knights went back and forth over the course of the four-day meet.

Rutgers led for the first two days, as the Irish trailed by 12 points at the end of day one and only six points at the end of day two.

Notre Dame surged ahead on day three, but it held only a slim five-point edge heading into the final session Saturday night.

That tight margin was erased as Rutgers came back to tie the meet – both teams having accumulated 587.5 points with only three events remaining.

The Irish ended the suspense as Julia Quinn and Jessica Stephens finished 1-2 in the 200-meter breaststroke, and Katie Carroll finished second in the 200-meter butterfly.

Those timely performances secured the win for Notre Dame, as it held off Rutgers by a final score of 707.5-687.5.

“[Irish] coach [Carrie] Nixon told us that it was all going to come down to numbers and that every little point from there on out was going to matter,” junior Katie Carroll said. “We knew that the team that wanted it more was going to win.”

Carroll led the Irish as she finished the weekend with seven all-Big East honors, giving her 21 for her career. That total places her in third place on Notre Dame’s all-time list for conference awards. Carroll also obtained an NCAA ‘A’ cut time of 4:14.37 in the 400 individual medley.

Carroll was one of several Irish swimmers who elevated her performance this weekend.

Junior Rebecca Grove and freshman Christa Riggins each garnered five all-Big East honors, and junior Quinn finished with four.

As a team, Notre Dame had 12 swimmers and divers walk away with at least one all-Big East finish.

With such a strong team performance, the Irish are now able to look toward taking the next step, the NCAA championships beginning March 16 in Athens, Ga.

“Our highest goal has been scoring as many points as we can at the NCAAs,” Nixon said after the Shamrock Invitational on Jan. 28. “That’s been our focus all year.”

Although the team will now turn its sights toward competing on a grander stage, it will not forget its accomplishment this weekend anytime soon.

“Of the three Big East titles that I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here, this one definitely meant the most and will probably be the most important of my four years,” Carroll said. “I’ve never felt this proud to be a part of a team that came together to pull off something so important.”