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Senior-dominated squad ready to pass on experience

By Joseph Monardo | Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Irish have at times this year resembled a three-headed monster thanks to the leadership of a trio of seniors. But next year a large portion of team leadership will pass to sophomore diver Ryan Koter, who has reaped the benefits of being surrounded by more experienced teammates in his two years at Notre Dame.

Koter, a native of Delmont, Pa., living in Siegfried Hall, is the only Irish non-senior to qualify for the upcoming NCAA zone championships. Seniors Wesley Villlaflor, Nathan Geary and Big East Diver of the Year Eric Lex also qualified for the championships and have played a role in Koter’s development.

“I’ve learned so much from my senior teammates,” Koter said. “I feel really lucky to have a group of three divers who are so great, and I feel like the quality of diving that I’m doing now compared to when I came in is so much greater just because I’ve had the opportunity to have them as role models.”

Koter will look to duplicate the leadership his three mentors have displayed when he becomes one of the more experienced divers on next year’s team.

“Next year is going to be a lot different,” he said. “I’m looking forward to changing my role and becoming a leader towards [the younger divers] and hopefully push them to become better divers.”

Irish coach Tim Welsh has confidence Koter will be able to fill the void created by the departure of the squad’s top divers.

“I think [his transition] will be natural,” Welsh said. “His continued improvement will just be a natural transition, so his role next year will be as our most experienced upperclassman.”

In addition to the demands of being a student-athlete, Koter is also a member of the Notre Dame Folk Choir.

“Last year I attended the 11:45 Mass a few times,” Koter said. “I was really impressed by how great the choir sounded. Freshman year … diving took up most of my time and I didn’t want to have too much on my plate. But this year I decided that it would be worth it.”

While he enjoys his time singing with the choir, Koter said performing brings a whole new form of pressure into his life.

“The pressure of having a solo is a lot different [from the pressure of diving],” he said. “You aren’t necessarily being judged for a certain score or a place or anything like that. The most nerve-wracking part for me is signing in front of a group of talented musicians and being judged by them.”

Still, Koter’s singing ability is impressive enough to earn the praise of his coach.

“I’ve heard him sing many times,” Welsh said. “He has sung the national anthem for us at these meets … and I’ve also heard him sing at [the Basilica of the Sacred Heart]. It’s a clean, clear, strong voice that he has.”

With the zone championships set to begin March 11, singing might have to take a back seat to diving as Koter and the rest of the Irish focus on closing out their season strongly.