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Men’s Swimming: Irish prepare for long-time rival

Conor Kelly | Thursday, November 3, 2011

Coming off three straight victories, the Irish will travel to Purdue and Valparaiso this weekend for a pair of in-state but out-of-conference matchups.

Buoyed by last weekend’s defeat of Pittsburgh in which his young team dominated the Panthers, Irish coach Tim Welsh said  more good things are in store for Notre Dame.

“What was exciting about last weekend, quite simply, is that we got better,” Welsh said. “Our times improved dramatically from the first weekend to the second. It was a very positive experience, especially considering that’s the site of the Big East championship. But the second week on the road is always harder than the first.”

For a team that includes 12 freshmen swimmers and four freshmen divers, the young season has been a learning process, but the team is growing up quickly. Athletes like freshman Michael Kreft, who registered two individual victories on the diving platform last week, and freshman John Williamson, winner of the 200 fly last weekend, are already making their mark for the Irish.

“The freshmen are coming along,” Welsh said. “You’re starting to see a lot more of them up on the score sheet winning events.”

The talented cadre of first-years meshes with a group of upperclassmen that led the way in the beginning of the year. Sophomore Frank Dyer, the reigning Big East Player of the Week, has already won three races on the year and posted times among the fastest in the country for freestyle.

On Friday, the Irish head to West Lafayette for a meet with the Boilermakers who are undefeated through two meets. Though not a conference foe, Purdue will test the Irish and give them a better idea of their championship aspirations this season.

“Purdue is a step up for us. They’ve been a great program for a long time,” Welsh said. “The last few times we’ve swam at Purdue, we’ve stubbed our toes and not performed well. We really like to measure ourselves against them.”

On Saturday, Welsh hopes to expand his roster and get a look at the depth of his team against Valparaiso. The Crusaders have not won a meet this year, and the Irish hope there will be ample opportunity to put in athletes who have not seen the pool much this fall.

“We’d like to see some guys against Valparaiso that we haven’t seen yet,” Welsh said. “It will be a good chance to see how much depth this team has.”

For Welsh, part of the allure of swimming against Valparaiso is its antiquated facilities. The pool has just six lanes and there is no warm-up area.

“You don’t see many places like that anymore,” Welsh said. “It’s the way that swimming used to be, and it’s neat for the kids to see that.”

The Irish begin their competition this weekend against Purdue at 6 p.m. Friday.