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Women’s Swimming: Irish look for 11th straight Big East title

Greg Arbogast | Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Entering the Big East Championships, which begin at 10 a.m. this morning in East Meadow, N.Y., No. 19 Notre Dame brings the confidence of a ten-time defending champion.

The Irish will be swimming for a Big East record 11th consecutive Big East title – something never before accomplished in any sport in Big East history – yet coach Carrie Nixon and her team have their sights set on even higher goals.

“We keep our sights set on the NCAA tournament, and setting our sights high helps us to improve and stay motivated,” Nixon said. “We have a lot to look forward to in addition to the Big East.”

Such confidence should not be mistaken for a lack of respect for the 11 teams who will be trying to break Notre Dame’s stranglehold on the Big East Championships, Nixon said.

“I feel like every year there’s always some team that’s gunning to take us down,” senior Jessica Stephens said. “When you’re on top, you always have to watch out because there’s some team trying to knock you down.”

When asked who she expected that team to be this year, Stephens selected No. 22 Rutgers – an unsurprising pick given that the Scarlet Knights have finished as the runner-up to Notre Dame in five of the previous seven Big East Championships.

This season, Rutgers has compiled a dual meet record of 6-1. The only blemish on the Scarlet Knights’ dual meet résumé came at the hands of No. 15 Penn State who defeated them 195-105 Jan. 20.

The other team that could pose a threat to Notre Dame is West Virginia. Although the Irish defeated the Mountaineers earlier this season 22.50-147.50 at the Shamrock Invitational, Nixon said West Virginia is a rapidly improving squad.

“The West Virginia coach has done a great job recruiting since he took over two years ago,” Nixon said of Mountaineers coach Sergio Gomez. “I don’t know if they have the depth to compete with us, but they’re up and coming.”

While the Mountaineers are a young team on the rise, the Irish are an experienced team full of confidence from previous success at the Big East Championship. Notre Dame will be led by senior captain Katie Carroll, a three-time NCAA tournament qualifier. In her three trips to the Big East Championship, Carroll has amassed 11 Big East titles and 21 Big East honors. She was the named the Big East Championships’ most outstanding swimmer in 2004.

In addition to Carroll, the Irish will lean on the experience of junior Caroline Johnson, an eight-time Big East champion, senior Julia Quinn, the champion in the 200 breaststroke at the 2006 Championships, and sophomore Christa Riggins, an all-Big East performer in five events her freshman year.

“I think it’s crucial, and I think it’s a big part of how much success we’ve had,” Nixon said, referring to her team’s past success at the Big East Championships. “It gives you a lot of confidence in what you’re doing, and it helps you know what it takes to win.”