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Men’s Swimming: Notre Dame to face conference champions

Conor Kelly | Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Coming off a convincing victory against Valparaiso, the Irish will travel to Kentucky on Saturday for a meet against No. 16 Louisville, the defending Big East champion.

Over the past three years, the Cardinals (2-1) and the Irish (4-2) have exchanged places atop the Big East tournament podium, with the Irish last taking the title in 2009.

This competition creates a natural, intense rivalry between the two teams, Irish coach Tim Welsh said.

“Whenever we race each other, we have either the past or future championships on our minds,” Welsh said. “They’re a very fast team coming off of a great season last year. It’s a pretty natural rivalry for that reason.”

Welsh compared his team’s matchup with Louisville to a midterm exam.

“We like to compare ourselves with the top teams in the country, teams in the top 25, so this is a very important test for us,” Welsh said. “The Iowa Invitational will be our final exam. It’s where we’ll really see where we are as a team.”

After the meet with the Cardinals, the Irish will not compete again until early December. Welsh said that he’d like to see everyone on the team get a chance to see the pool Saturday, as developing experience on a young team is key for the Irish moving forward.

“As much as we talk about our opponents, it’s really just about us and our team,” Welsh said. “We’re in the middle of things, not the end of things, and that doesn’t depend at all on what Louisville does.”

The Irish will need a number of strong individual performances in order to compete at Louisville and will look to stalwarts like sophomore Frank Dyer to continue their strong strokes. Dyer has won a race at every meet this year, and his times in the 200-freestyle have been among the top finishes in the country.

Freshman diver Michael Kreft has also placed at numerous events among strong fields.

The College Swimming Coaches Association of America released the first rankings of the year Wednesday, and though the Irish received votes, they did not crack the top 25.

Two past Irish opponents, Purdue and Michigan, appeared in the poll at the No. 17 and No. 1 positions, respectively.

“As we mature, I think that we’ll deserve a ranking,” Welsh said. “But right now, we’re not ready.”

Welsh has made it clear that managing the season will be a process for the Irish, and a large step in that process will play out when the Irish jump into competition Saturday in Louisville, Ky., at 11 a.m.

Contact Conor Kelly at [email protected]