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Men’s Swimming and Diving: ND to renew rivalry with matchup at Pitt

Megan Golden | Friday, October 28, 2011

The inexperienced Irish will travel to Big East rival Pittsburgh for their first road meet of the season.

Following two second-place finishes already this season, Notre Dame has continued its training in preparation for a tough matchup against the Panthers.

The Irish (2-1) will serve as Pittsburgh’s (1-1) first taste of competition at home and first Big East opponent of the season. Trees Hall, home of the Panthers, has been named the site of the 2012 Big East tournament.

“The Pittsburgh team and the Notre Dame team have a great rivalry over the years, and it is a college competition at its best,” Irish coach Tim Welsh said. “It is a very intense, competitive experience, but it is also very high on great sportsmanship. It’s got great spirit, intense competition. I think it’s going to be a very, very competitive meet.”

Irish sophomore Frank Dyer led the Irish to two second-place finishes on Oct. 14 and 15, where the Irish finished behind Michigan in each meet. Dyer earned gold in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle races.

Notre Dame senior co-captain Marshall Sherman said the Irish are counting on Dyer’s experience against their out-of-state rival.

“Frankie Dyer, our sophomore, is probably definitely our standout,” Sherman said. “We typically have a couple guaranteed victories out of him.”

Notre Dame’s squad enters its rivalry meet with 16 freshmen on the roster ⎯ 12 swimmers and four divers. Simply glancing at such an inexperienced roster might cause the team to lose confidence, but the Irish sense this is a special class of freshmen.

Welsh said he remains confident in this particular group, despite a looming test in the team’s first meet on the road.

“This is a mature group of freshmen with a great deal of experience in their background. We expect them to be fine, but it is their first meet on the road, so we’ll see,” Welsh said. “The major advantage for us is that the Big East championships are also at Pittsburgh, so this is early season dress rehearsal for what will be our conference championship. If we’re going to win on Friday, the freshmen will play a part. We can’t win without them.”

Irish junior co-captain Chris Johnson said he believes the freshmen provide energy unlike anything this Irish team has seen before.

“The strength is that we are so young. Guys are coming in ready to go. They’re excited about being on a collegiate team,” he said. “They’re ready to race in whatever meet we have. They’re looking to go fast. Just the group of guys that we have right now, they like training hard. That’s a definite plus. Guys that like working hard and like sticking together and practicing is a big advantage.”

A challenging workout at practice on Wednesday provided the co-captains with a chance to lead this young group of swimmers by example.

“Number one, [I am] trying to guide them because the team is so new, and stuff that in years past we’ve been able to take for granted … now we kind of [have] to walk them through it at least once,” Johnson said. “At the same time, it’s a great opportunity just to give them an example that they can look up to, and hopefully they’ll take that, internalize it and be that someone else somewhere down the road.”

The Irish will begin competition at Pittsburgh on Friday at 4 p.m. at Trees Hall.

Contact Megan Golden at mgolde01@saintmarys.edu