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ND Women’s Swimming: Irish women snap conference title streak at 14

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, February 21, 2011

Notre Dame’s streak of Big East Championship dominance came to an end Saturday when the Irish finished the championship meet with 655.5 points, second to Louisville’s 820.5.  

Though the Irish (5-7) were disappointed to see their run of 14 consecutive conference titles snapped at Louisville’s Wright Natatorium, strong individual performances and a second-place finish gave Notre Dame plenty to be proud of.

“It was hard to lose to Louisville, but honestly we came together as a team and we had a great time at the meet,” senior swimmer Katie Casey said. “We’ve had a really long last year, so I think the fact that we performed well at the meet is something to be really excited about.”

The strong swimming of sophomore Kim Holden and freshman Kelly Ryan buoyed the Irish throughout the meet. Holden won both the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke, the second year in a row she swept the events. Her 200-yard time of 1:55.18 broke the school record that she set last season. She also became the first female Big East swimmer to swim the 100-yard backstroke in under 53 seconds after finishing with a time of 52.99, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that she trailed her competition by over a second half way through the race.

Holden also took third place in the 100-yard butterfly, claiming an NCAA B-cut time along with Casey, who finished in fourth place.

Holden was joined in the spotlight by Ryan, who was outstanding in her first Big East Championship meet.

Ryan took the 200-yard freestyle in dominating fashion, winning her first Big East title after leading the field for the entire four-pool length race. Ryan also won the 100-yard freestyle with a NCAA B-cut time of 49.73. She beat out second-place finisher Aileen Cole of Louisville and teammate Amy Prestinario, a junior who finished third with another NCAA B-cut performance.

Ryan also scored points in the 200-yard backstroke, coming in third place, and anchored both the victorious 400-yard freestyle and medley relays. The 400-yard freestyle relay, one of the last events of the meet, was a highlight of the week for Notre Dame.

“We already knew that we going to get second overall in the meet, but they won the last relay and it was really exciting to watch and a great swim,” Casey said.

The relay squad, which featured Prestinario, senior Lauren Parisi and sophomore Lauren Scott in addition to Ryan, trailed Louisville for the first three legs of the race. But Ryan stole the lead from the home team on the on the last lap, allowing the Irish to finish the day with a victory.

The Irish were also encouraged by the return of head coach Brian Barnes, who has been away for much of the season for personal reasons.

“It was awesome to have him back. He came back about a week and a half before we left, and then he was there for the entire weekend,” Casey said. “It was really nice to have him back coaching us and telling us to have our eyes on the pool. It made the team come together.”

Notre Dame will learn which swimmers have qualified for the NCAA Championships within two weeks.  The championship meet will begin on March 17 in Austin, Texas.