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ND Women’s Swimming and Diving: Irish look to finish strong

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Every conference has a defending champion, but it’s not very often that a team competes for a 15th consecutive title. Yet that is what the Notre Dame swimmers will attempt as they head to Louisville for the swimming portion of the Big East championships.

The impressive streak of Big East conference championship victories is a source of motivation and confidence for the Irish (5-7), who currently hold the Big East record for most consecutive titles in any sport.

“Holding 14 consecutive titles helps give us confidence going into the meet.” senior Samantha Maxwell said. “Each one of those championships has a story behind it, has a different set of circumstances leading up to it, and reminds us that we are carrying on a tradition. To be able to continue that tradition would be awesome and a lot of fun for our girls,”

Senior Katie Casey agreed that keeping the streak alive was strong motivation for the team.

“We’ve won 14 titles in a row, so we want to win another and make it 15,” Casey said.

Maxwell said that the pressure of maintaining such a long title run will not affect the team’s performance.

“I think it is in the back of our minds, but at the same time our goal is to qualify girls for the NCAA championships,” Maxwell said. “Winning Big East is just a stepping stone to doing that, but it isn’t the only way.”

Though the Irish expect to be competitive in every event, they will face stiff competition, especially from Louisville, Villanova and West Virginia. Nagging injuries have hampered several team members this season, but all swimmers are healthy enough to compete this week.

Notre Dame heads into the swimming portion of the competition with the lead courtesy of the Irish divers, who competed this past weekend. Sophomore Jenny Chiang won the 3-meter board competition for the second year in a row and finished second in the 1-meter dive, while senior Heidi Grossman took third in the 1-meter and fourth in the 3-meter competition.

Maxwell, who was named the Most Outstanding Swimmer of last year’s Big East championships, hopes to see her teammates match her accomplishments at this year’s meet.

“I’m excited to see what’s to come this year, and I’m especially confident in my teammates and their abilities to perform at a level deserving of the same award,” Maxwell said. “Our team has become much more mature and grown a lot in their abilities.”

The meet will begin on Feb. 16 at the University of Louisville’s Wright Natatorium and conclude on Feb. 19.