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ND Swimming: Women look for second straight dual meet win

Chris Doyen | Friday, November 9, 2007

When a team is as successful as the defending Big East champion Notre Dame women were last season, it’s natural for other teams to jump at the chance to beat them.

The Irish will face one such Big East foe today when they head to Pittsburgh to try and pick up their second straight dual meet win.

“I think we always have a big bullseye on our foreheads going into a Big East meet,” Irish coach Carrie Nixon said. “[Big East opponents] will always bring their ‘A’ game, so it’s important that we make a statement this weekend and send ripples through the conference.”

The women (1-2) have received contributions from experienced swimmers and divers, especially senior Caroline Johnson and junior Christa Riggins, in their first three meets. Freshmen Katie Casey, Sam Maxwell, Lauren Sylvester and Amywren Miller have added youthful depth to the Irish roster, and they all played a big role in last week’s win over Purdue.

The Irish will take on a Panthers squad that has posted three dominant victories over St. Bonaventure, Syracuse and Cincinnati in its first three meets of this season. Like the Irish, Pittsburgh has succeeded due to solid performances from experienced swimmers coupled with a wealth of new talent.

Last year, Notre Dame beat the Panthers 188-112 at the Rolfs Aquatic Center, while Johnson, junior Claire Hutchinson and sophomore diver Natalie Stitt turned in winning performances.

The women’s schedule gets a little meatier following this meet, and Nixon wants to make sure the Irish are running on all cylinders as soon as possible.

“This is a chance for us to really work on our races and iron out some of the things we’ve been working on in practice,” Nixon said.

After falling to the Boilermakers, the men will join the women on the trip and try to grab their elusive first win.

The men currently stand at 0-3 after experiencing tough losses to USC, Purdue and Texas A&M. Sophomore John Lytle swam impressively last weekend, picking up a second-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle, and he will have to do more of the same if the Irish can notch their first victory of the year.

Like the Panthers women, the men have looked impressive in defeating St. Bonaventure, Syracuse and Cincinnati soundly.

Irish men’s head coach Tim Welsh sees added significance this weekend because Pittsburgh has proven to be a consistent performer in the Big East.

“Pittsburgh is a very worthy opponent,” Welsh said. “They have been team champions in the Big East many times, and they have been wonderful hosts to us in the past.”

The Irish defeated the Panthers last year 172-126. Lytle and fellow sophomores Ross Moore and Mackenzie LeBlanc had first-place finishes against the Panthers last year.

Notre Dame comes into the meet against Pittsburgh in a much different position than it was a year ago. Last season, the win over the Panthers moved Notre Dame’s record to 4-0, which was the best start for the men since the 1992-93 campaign. This time, however, the Irish will try to notch one in the win column, while Pittsburgh will look to get its fourth-straight victory.

“Something is going to give tomorrow,” Welsh said. “One of these streaks is going to continue, and we certainly feel we have a chance to win the meet.”