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Men’s Swimming and Diving: Close loss shows Irish improvement

Joseph Monardo | Monday, January 24, 2011

The Irish were edged out by a perennially strong Michigan State team on Friday by a score of 155.5-145.5, dropping Notre Dame to 5-3 on the season. But the slim 10-point margin signals a dramatic improvement from last year’s 179-121 drubbing at the hands of the Spartans (5-1).

“Last year, Michigan State beat us by a lot more,” junior Petar Petrovic said. “This year was a pretty close meet, so on that side you can say that it was progress.”

Irish coach Tim Welsh echoed Petrovic’s analysis, emphasizing how close and competitive the meet really was. Welsh acknowledged that a few races that were decided by less than a tenth of a second gave the edge to the home team, which he described as one of the best Michigan State squads he’s seen in years.

In the face of strong opposition, the Irish put forth a strong showing, registering six individual victories on the night. Notre Dame’s effort was highlighted by sophomore Bill Bass, who placed first in the 200-yard butterfly and the 400-yard individual medley.

Welsh deemed the performances of freshmen Frank Dyer and Colin Babcock in the 1,000-yard freestyle as “outstanding,” as Dyer won his event debut in runaway fashion and Babcock swam a personal best. Two more first place finishes for Notre Dame were provided by sophomore Kevin Overholt in the 50-yard freestyle and senior Michael Sullivan in the 500-yard freestyle. Senior diver Eric Lex placed first in the 3-meter board, registering a score of 375.60, the seventh highest in school history.

Even with Notre Dame’s many highlights, including winning the final three events of the meet, they were not able to match the point total of the Spartans. In one of the closest races of the day, Petrovic was bested by Michigan State’s record-holding Jacob Jarzen.

“I had a pretty good 100 backstroke and I lost in the last one or two meters,” Petrovic said. “It was a really good race, but a bad finish cost me the victory.”

With minimal focus paid to the past, the Irish look ahead to hosting the Shamrock Invitational this upcoming weekend. The Invitational is the lone meet remaining before the Big East tournament, and is both a homecoming for the Irish and what they hope will be a grand finale to the regular season.

“It’s a big opportunity for us,” Welsh said.

Petrovic delivered a more direct analysis of what the Invitational means for the Irish.

“A good performance at Shamrock would give us a good introduction for the Big East so we can reclaim the title from Louisville this year,” he said.