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ND Swimming: Invitational features key Big East squads

Greg Arbogast | Friday, January 26, 2007

The Notre Dame men and women will host the Shamrock Invitational today and tomorrow at Rolfs Aquatic Center, the final home meet for both teams.

The guest list will include Big East rivals West Virginia and Connecticut and out-of-conference opponents Penn State and Oakland. On the men’s side, the No. 20 Mountaineers – who currently hold the fastest Big East times in nine of the 15 swimming events – appear to offer the Irish their biggest test.

“They’re currently the hottest team in the Big East,” Notre Dame coach Tim Welsh said. “It’s a very big challenge for us, and I’m glad they’re coming to our pool.”

West Virginia is undefeated in dual meets on the season – a distinction the Irish shared until suffering their first dual meet defeat of the season at the hands of No. 8 Northwestern 167-131.

The Notre Dame women’s team is still able to boast a perfect dual meet record. The Irish stand at 4-0 on the season with victories over Purdue, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Hawaii. Maintaining its pristine dual meet record will be on Notre Dame’s mind as it enters the pool this weekend.

“It is important to us, and [having a perfect dual meet record] was one of our goals at the beginning of the season,” Irish senior Katie Carroll said.

Of the four teams coming to campus this weekend, Penn State will likely pose the greatest threat to Notre Dame’s undefeated mark. The Lions, currently ranked No. 15 in the country by CollegeSwimming.com, also have yet to lose a dual meet. Their latest victory was a 195-105 thrashing of No. 22 Rutgers.

“The Big Ten is always very strong, so it will be good for us to swim against one of their fastest teams,” Carroll said. “[This weekend] will also be a good test of where we stand against West Virginia which has a good young team.”

With the Big East championships less than three weeks away, the Shamrock Invitational will give both the men and women’s teams an opportunity to gauge themselves against West Virginia.

The Mount-aineers will pose one of the biggest obstacles in the men and women’s bids to win their third and 11th consecutive Big East titles, respectively.

The proximity of the Big East Championships will certainly be on Notre Dame’s mind this weekend. The Irish view the meet as a chance to further prepare themselves for Feb. 14 in East Meadow, N.Y.

“[The Big East Championships] are the focal point for everything,” Welsh said. “Everything we do every day has some relationship with what we want to see for us at the Big East championship. This weekend, we’re trying to sharpen everything and get faster for the Big East.”