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Men’s Swimming: Irish hope to cruise past No. 16 Wildcats and Vikings

Joe Meixell | Friday, January 20, 2006

The men’s swimming and diving team begins the most crucial part of its season this weekend with back-to-back matchups against No. 16 Northwestern and then Cleveland State.

“This is crunch time,” Irish head coach Tim Welsh said. “We are down to the last couple of road shows before we take it to New York.”

Eisenhower Park, on Long Island, is the site for this year’s Big East Conference Tournament, and Notre Dame’s schedule over the next two weekends is intended to mentally and physically prepare the team to defend last year’s league title.

The Irish begin with a Friday night meet against Northwestern, the highest ranked opponent on their schedule. The Wildcats have taken the last five meetings between the two teams – and 13 of 20 in the all-time series.

“They are pretty quick across the board, but we go into the meet knowing that we have the depth to beat them,” junior Ted Brown said. “It’s going to come down to if we are able to utilize our depth.”

Notre Dame got a preview of just how quick those “top guys” are when the two teams competed last week in the Dallas Morning News Classic. The Irish finished fifth overall, three places behind the Wildcats.

“We are two very different teams,” Welsh said. “They have a handful of superstars who are very, very good but they are not as deep or balanced as we are.”

The Irish are hoping their team depth will present them with a better matchup in head-to-head competition than in last weekend’s tournament style meet. At 5-1, Notre Dame has done very well in dual meets, while Northwestern has gone only 2-2 so far this season.

Notre Dame at Cleveland St.

Saturday’s opponent, Cleveland State (7-3), visited Rolfs Aquatic Center earlier this year for the ND Relays.

The Vikings finished sixth out of seven teams, but Welsh said his team would not overlook Cleveland State, whose strong divers and long distance swimmers may create match up problems with the strengths of Notre Dame.

The threat is increased because the meet takes place less than 24 hours after Notre Dame’s meet at Northwestern.

Notre Dame, which has not lost to Cleveland State during the past 10 years, is confident in its ability to beat the teams it needs to in order to maintain its national rank and reputation.

“Teams put forth their best effort against us in every meet,” Brown said. “It is our job to have the same intensity for all of our meets.”