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ND Swimming: Irish focus on Big East despite Louisville meet

Joe Meixell | Friday, February 2, 2007

The Notre Dame men and women will both travel to Louisville this weekend, but they will be in a New York state of mind.This weekend’s meet against the Cardinals will be the final meet for both the men and the women before they head to East Meadow, N.Y., and Long Island, N.Y., for the Big East championships that begin Feb. 14.”We’re looking very much at the Big East [championships],” Irish men’s coach Tim Welsh said. “We’re in a sharpening process right now, and this weekend is our last chance to get things right before we get to New York.”For the No. 17 men’s squad, Louisville will be a reprieve from the stiff competition the team has faced in recent weeks. Notre Dame suffered their first dual meet loss of the season at the hands of then-No. 8 Northwestern by the score of 167-131 Jan. 20. The Wildcats – now No. 6 – are undefeated in dual meets on the season.Last weekend, the Irish hosted the Shamrock Invitational in which they participated in a quadruple dual meet against No. 19 West Virginia, Penn State, Connecticut and Oakland. Notre Dame went 2-2 on the weekend, defeating Connecticut and Oakland but falling short against Penn State and still-undefeated West Virginia.The Irish will look to pick up some momentum this weekend against a Louisville squad that has floundered their way to a 3-9 dual meet record. The Cardinals lost in their last meet 189-110 against Jan. 27.”Louisville isn’t as fast up front or as complete as Northwestern or West Virginia, but they’re very good in the stroke events and the relays,” Welsh said. “I would put them as one of the top four teams in the Big East.”The Notre Dame women can expect a stronger challenge from Louisville this weekend. The Cardinals hold a 10-2 record in dual meets this season, and they are coming off a 189-111 win at Western Kentucky Jan. 27.”I don’t know how much of a threat they’ll be to us,” senior Katie Carroll said. “I don’t think they have the depth we do, and I think it will be our depth that pulls us through.”That kind of confidence is not surprising after Notre Dame’s showing in last weekend’s Shamrock Invitational. With wins over Oakland, Connecticut and West Virginia, the Irish went 3-1 on the weekend with the only stumble coming against No. 15 Penn State.With their defeat of West Virginia last weekend, the Irish gained the upper hand on one of the primary challengers to Notre Dame’s bid for their 11th consecutive Big East title. The Irish face a similar opportunity this weekend against the Cardinals. “This is another good opportunity to send a message,” Carroll said. “It will show them that we’re not messing around.”