Justin Plaschka, Irish relay team qualify for nationals
Ryan Klaus | Friday, May 13, 2016
For the second time in three seasons, Notre Dame welcomed a new coach to the mix when head coach Matt Tallman took an indefinite leave of absence in December.
Tallman was replaced on an interim basis by Mike Litzinger, who himself was in his first season as head coach of the women’s program. Litzinger was eventually named the head coach of both programs this past April.
An up-and-down season began for the Irish in October with a first-place finish at the Dennis Starks Relays and a dual meet home win against Michigan State. In November, the Irish traveled to meets at Purdue, where the team placed third and Virginia Tech, where Notre Dame took third place in a tri-dual meet.
In January, the Irish started their spring semester slate at Virginia, where the Irish fell to the Cavaliers. Notre Dame then participated in a dual-meet with Northwestern, where the Irish defeated the Wildcats, before hosting the annual Shamrock Invitational. Notre Dame concluded its regular season slate at Michigan’s First Chance Meet.
At the end of February, Notre Dame traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina, to swim in the ACC championships. In the four-day event, the Irish finished in seventh place as a team with 678 points.
Despite having a finish that was Notre Dame’s worst in its three-year ACC tenure, the Irish did have a number of impressive individual performances. Sophomore Justin Plaschka, who qualified for the NCAA National Meet in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard freestyle, led the impressive individual showings. Plaschka also was a part of the 400-yard freestyle team that qualified for the NCAA championship.
“For our men, the ACC championship served notice that our future is bright,” Litzinger said. “Every athlete had a personal best, and [the team] finishing the meet with a NCAA qualifying performance and Notre Dame record in the 400-yard freestyle relay was quite a statement.”
Other members of the relay team who traveled to Atlanta, Georgia were junior Trent Jackson and freshmen Daniel Speers, Tabahn Afrik and Matthew Grauslys. Grauslys replaced injured junior Reed Fujan.
At the NCAA championship meet, Plaschka finisheed in 41st in the 100-yard butterfly and 38th in the 100-yard freestyle, while the relay team finished in 20th-place overall in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
As the page turns to next season, Litzinger is preparing himself for the challenges associated with taking over the team full-time.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of assembling a great coaching staff, the bringing together of alumni who have been separated since 1995, and making a statement that Notre Dame will be a player on the ACC and NCAA scenes in the future,” Litzinger said.