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Irish face serious competition at Natoma

| Thursday, April 14, 2016

Notre Dame will head west to Gold River, California, this weekend where the 18th-ranked Irish will participate in the Lake Natoma Invitational.

The regatta boasts significant talent as there are a total of seven ranked teams that will be competing: No. 1 Brown, No. 2 California, No. 7 Stanford, No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 15 Gonzaga, No. 16 Iowa and the Irish.

“We’ll be racing [California], Stanford, Wisconsin, Iowa and Gonzaga, all being ranked within the top 18,” Stone said. “We know it will be very competitive, but we’ve always believed in racing a hard schedule so this is nothing new for us. We’ll see once we get out there how we perform.”

Notre Dame is coming off a long stretch of training as their last regatta, the Big 10-ACC Double Dual hosted by Indiana at Lake Lemon, was cancelled due to inclement weather. The last time the Irish were in action was the last weekend of March at the Longhorn Invitational.

“I feel that we’ve practiced well over the last couple weeks and we have done a heavy load of work,” Stone said. “The team has reacted well to it, so we’ll see. It’s one of those things where we’ll find out Saturday and Sunday where we are.”

Specifically regarding the performance of his team, Stone said he is more concerned with whether his team improves as the races progress throughout the weekend than worrying about the how the other schools perform, especially when going up against opponents of this strength.

“I just expect that we race well and that with each successive race we can perform better than the last,” Stone said. “We’re learning how to race better and perform better as the season progresses. As far as any specific results, we can’t worry about that right now as we’ll be taking on a really fast group, so we’re just hoping to race better and learn, and then we can move on from there.”

With a couple of races notched under their belt, the team will be busy heading the rest of the way, and expectations are lofty going down this final stretch of the year, Stone said.

“We’ve got races both this weekend and next weekend followed up by the ACCs, so our ultimate goal will be to make the NCAA’s and beat our performance from last year, and that’s we strive for every day when we come out here,” Stone said. “As this season has gone on, our improvement is tough to measure. We’ve had a couple races so far against some very fast competition, much like this weekend. As of late, our training load has increased, and I think we’ve adapted well to it. We’re liking what we are seeing, so I would say we feel pretty good heading the rest of the way.”

After the Lake Natoma Invitational, the Irish will travel to Sacramento, California for the Dale England Cup and then, on May 13, the ACC championships commence.

Racing will kick off Saturday and continue into Sunday as the Irish will take another step along the way to the ultimate goal of getting back to NCAAs.

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