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Sports

Irish set to face Olympic talent in No. 1/9 Indiana Hoosiers

| Thursday, November 9, 2017

The No. 13 men’s and No. 18 women’s swimming and diving teams will face their toughest challenge of the season when they travel to Bloomington, Indiana, to compete against the Cincinnati Bearcats and the No. 1 ranked men’s and the No. 9 ranked women’s swimming and diving teams of the Indiana Hoosiers this Thursday.

The Irish aren’t a stranger to ranked opponents this season, as they have faced three in Texas A&M, Louisville and Purdue. The Irish are currently 2-1 against ranked opponents, and their success this season has contributed to their highest ranking in team history. After a week’s rest from competition, Notre Dame will return to action this week. But head coach Mike Litzinger insists the teams didn’t necessarily rest with the time off.

“We haven’t really rested, but had a week off of competition,” Litzinger said. “That was great for our group. We could put in a solid 10 days of training, have a normal school week and not spend the emotional energy that a competition weekend demands. I would say the athletes enjoyed a normal week.”

Aside from preparing for the Hoosiers, Litzinger and the team also had the opportunity to prepare for the Ohio State Invitational that commences next week in Columbus, Ohio, and will feature some of the top teams from across the country. Last year, the Invitational was highlighted by four-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky.

“We are always working on our ‘craft,’” Litzinger said. “As far as anything special, we are spending time solidifying our relay line ups and looking ahead to the Ohio State Invitational.”

Like Notre Dame, Indiana has also faced ranked competition this season. The men’s team is 4-0 this season against ranked opponents, including No. 2 Texas and No. 4 Florida. On the women’s side, the team has a 2-2 record against ranked teams throughout the season.

The Hoosiers aren’t just an ordinary college program, as the team features three Olympic medalists in senior Blake Pieroni, junior Lilly King and redshirt senior Michael Hixon. Pieroni claimed a gold medal at Rio in the men’s 4×100-meter relay. King earned two gold medals, one in the 4×100-meter relay and another — in addition to an Olympic record — in the 100-meter breaststroke. Hixon won a silver medal in the synchronized 3-meter springboard.

Litzinger said he realizes upending the Hoosiers is a tall order for the Irish considering the talent on their roster — but he’s looking forward to the challenge

“Indiana men are ranked No.1 and women are No. 9, so the competition will be as good as we have seen it,” he said. “Our group is going to approach this the same way we always do. It is business as usual. We will worry about preparing ourselves to race and compete. If we do that, we will get on the bus home happy.

“Winning at Indiana will be a tall order. … We are facing some of the best competition we have seen all year.”

Despite the Olympic prowess Indiana has on its team, Litzinger said he is confident in his team‘s capabilities and believes they can rise to the occasion to upset the top-ranked Hoosiers.

“The challenge is: Can we race and compete?” Litzinger said. “I think the answer is yes.”

The Irish will face the Hoosiers and the Bearcats in a dual meet Thursday, in Bloomington, Indiana, at 2 p.m.

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