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ND Men’s Swimming: Irish to test their spirit against Pitt

Maija Gustin | Thursday, October 14, 2010

Coming off a win at their Dennis Stark Relays last weekend, the Irish team looks to take on division rival Pittsburgh Friday in the first dual meet of the season to open their Big East conference schedule.

“We were very encouraged by the relays,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “We thought it helped us. We got off to a very good start.”

Notre Dame opened its season by winning gold in all but three races Friday to win the event overall. The Irish clocked two meet records, one in the 400-yard freestyle relay and the other in the 400-yard breaststroke relay. After suffering a loss to Michigan at last year’s meet, Welsh said he believed the enthusiasm of this year’s team has made the difference.

“One of the things we’ve been noticing is there’s a real joy and exuberance to this team,” he said. “They race with that spirit.”

Training has been a top priority for the team this year, and Welsh believes the team is faster than it was at this time last year.

“We’ve put a lot of emphasis this year on the idea of trying to get more than one year’s improvement out of one year’s training,” he said. “The team has embraced that.”

Pittsburgh has competed twice at home this season, and Welsh said he thought the Panthers might be a little more in tune.

“They’ll know a little more about how the squad is shaping up than we will,” Welsh said.

Irish captain Mike Sullivan said he’s looking forward to facing a tough division rival.

“The meet against Pitt is always a fun one for us,” Sullivan said. “They always swim well against us in dual meets, and the meet is often a close one. We are definitely confident after the way we swam on Friday, but we need to just keep training for the next few weeks and be ready to swim faster. We look to improve with every meet through the season, so we’ll see if that holds true in two weeks.”

Welsh called Notre Dame’s rivalry with the Panthers “a collegiate rivalry as it’s supposed to be.”

“Inside the event, it’s very intense,” he says. “But outside the event, there is very good sportsmanship.”

The Irish defeated Pitt last year in their first dual meet of the season, besting the Panthers 152-148.

“We’re a team they like to race and they will be prepared for us,” Welsh said. “It’s a meet I look forward to every year. We’re just eager to see where we are. We want to measure ourselves.”

Notre Dame will take on Pittsburgh at 12 p.m. at the Rolfs Aquatic Center on Thursday, Oct. 22.