Irish overcome coaching change as Reaney shines
Benjamin Padanilam | Friday, May 15, 2015
In its second season in the ACC, Notre Dame finished sixth in the conference and sent three team members to the NCAA championships.
The Irish (7-9) faced adversity early in the season, as head coach Brian Barnes resigned to spend more time with his family after holding the position for six seasons. Just a week earlier, five-year assistant coach Kate Kovenock had accepted the head coaching position at Brown, leaving the Irish program without a clear leader.
Notre Dame turned to Tim Welsh to take over as interim head coach for the program. Welsh had recently retired as head coach for the men’s team after 29 seasons, but despite his experience Welsh said the transition was not always easy.
“All of us had just great support and empathy for Brian Barnes, and he had made a good decision for his family and himself,” Welsh said. “All transitions are challenging, and it took a while for us to adjust and the team to adjust, but we eventually did.”
In addition to experience, senior swimmer Emma Reaney said Welsh brought the perfect attitude to practice day in and day out.
“I’ve never met anyone that better embodies what Notre Dame is about than [Welsh],” Reaney said. “He loves this place and this team. I think having someone that was always there for us, always dedicated to us and made that very obvious was something our team really needed at that time.”
By the end of the year, the team was swimming at its best, Welsh said. At the conference championships, the Irish finished sixth. Reaney and Welsh said this accomplishment was something to be proud of.
“Being able to improve in the conference, despite all the difficulties we had this year, was our best moment,” Reaney said.
“They held serve, but in order to do that it took a very strong team effort,” Welsh said.
While most of the team’s season ended at the conference championships, three seniors had the opportunity to compete in one last meet: the NCAA championships. Reaney qualified to compete in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke events, as well as the 200-yard individual medley. Senior Courtney Whyte qualified for the 100- and 200-yard butterfly, in addition to the 100-yard backstroke from the alternate list, and senior Allison Casareto qualified for the 1- and 3-meter dives.
At the NCAA championships, Reaney received three All-American citations, finishing third in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in both the 200 breaststroke and 200 individual medley. Casareto earned an honorable mention, as she placed ninth in the 1-meter dive.
“What a grand finale, to be a senior and finish your career at the NCAA championships,” Welsh said.
As the Irish head into next season, they will be under new leadership. Mike Litzinger, who previously served as associate head coach at North Carolina, was hired to fill the head coaching vacancy April 17.
“I cannot be more excited about coach Mike Litzinger,” Reaney said. “What our team really needs is someone who can bring us together and get everyone to buy in to what the team is doing, and I have full confidence that he can do that.”