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ND SWIMMING: Surging Irish ride big streak

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One victory can be chalked up to chance. Two wins in a row is a nice performance. Three is a winning streak. Six victories in a row – that’s the current Notre Dame women’s swimming and diving team.

Flash back to Oct. 29, a time filled with pleasant weather, an increasing workload and many still recovering from the emotional scars of the USC football game. On Oct. 29, the women’s swimming and diving team was recovering from a 172-128 loss to Purdue, its second consecutive loss to open the season.

Nearly three months later, it’s safe to say that the recovery is more than complete. Under the guidance and tutelage of first-year head coach Carrie Nixon, the team has reeled off six consecutive victories since that defeat in West Lafayette.

Although Purdue handed the Irish their most recent defeat, the Boilermakers may have inadvertently given Notre Dame the key to its recent run of success.

“Against Purdue, we went into the meet pretty confident that we would win, and we were more concerned with them than we were with ourselves,” head coach Carrie Nixon said. “That meet, though, made us realize that we need to focus on our strengths rather than the other team’s weaknesses. I think that realization internalized us, and that helped us improve every meet. That was the turning point.”

Fruits of the team’s change in philosophy soon followed as the Irish reeled off consecutive dual meet victories against Pittsburgh and Minnesota.

The Minnesota victory was one to remember, as it was Nixon’s first home victory as head coach. It was also an important victory as it started to build the team’s confidence.

“Taking down a prominent Big Ten team like Minnesota, one that we were evenly matched with, really gave us confidence to know that we can beat a team of our caliber,” Nixon said.

After dispatching the Golden Gophers, Notre Dame finished the fall semester strong with first-place victories in two invitational meets.

The first was the 10-team Minnesota Invitational where the Irish rallied from 80 points down on the final day of the three-day meet to triumph over the same Minnesota team of a week ago.

Notre Dame led from start to finish a week later as it won its own Notre Dame Invitational.

The improvement and build up of momentum were blatantly visible by that point as the Irish set three season best times, two career best times, three NCAA ‘B’ cut times and two meet and pool records throughout their three-day invitational.

Nixon credited the team’s continued improvement to the difficult training to which she subjected them.

“We really worked hard on our endurance base,” she said. “We were learning how to be better athletes. It takes a while to learn that because it builds up over the course of a season.”

Coming off of an intense two-week training trip during Christmas break, the swimming and diving team continued Notre Dame’s dominance over the state of Michigan.

First, the Irish obtained their fifth consecutive victory with a defeat of No. 15 Michigan, and they brought the streak to six with last weekend’s defeat of Michigan State.

“The Michigan meet was really icing on the cake for us,” Nixon said. “It showed us we can rally at the end, and that we’ve trained hard enough that we can outlast our opponents.”

Three months and six wins later, Notre Dame barely recognizes the team that returned from West Lafayette with a winless dual meet record.

With the Big East Championships less than three weeks away, the timing couldn’t be any better for the surging Irish.