Swimming Team Looks for Success Under New Combined Program
Alex Bender | Thursday, September 22, 2016
Swimming season is fast approaching for the Notre Dame men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams with competition just a little more than a week out, and much excitement surrounds the recently revamped program under Irish head coach Mike Litzinger.
Litzinger is entering just his second season at the University and his first complete season as head coach of both the men’s and women’s programs after taking over the lead role in December of last year.
The team saw a fair amount of success under Litzinger last year, including sending a total of 10 team members to NCAAs and breaking six school records.
Litzinger looked back at his first season as coach, saying he is glad of the opportunity he has been given to revamp the program.
“I was originally hired as the women’s coach in 2015 as the school’s program was going through a lot of change, and it allowed me to rebuild the team and take them from the ground up,” Litzinger said. “We were able to finish sixth at ACCs and send four girls to NCAAs.
“When I took over the men’s team as well, I felt the season ended strong. We finished seventh at ACCs, sent six team members to NCAAs and broke six school records. It was a great first year, but at the same time we still have a lot more to go.”
This is the first time since 1995 that Notre Dame has had a combined swimming program, and Litzinger thinks that will help the program get into the right mindset for this season.
“Now that we are a combined team under one coaching staff I think we can really begin to gain some traction,” Litzinger said. “I feel that this could help us a lot in recruiting and toward our goals of being one of top programs in the NCAA. We want to be performing as well as possible and take steps forward in moving up in the rankings. It’s a process, but we have a lot of talent and can get it done.”
In this first full year of a combined team under a relatively new staff, it might be hard to gauge how successful Notre Dame can be, especially early on, but Litzinger knows what he’s looking for in this team from the beginning.
“Expectations are simply to train hard and embrace our training program,” Litzinger said. “All we can do is control the things that we are capable of controlling such as technique and things like that. We want to be able to develop and learn as we go along as well as implement race strategy and practice how we’re going to race and really become a full team.
“There’s no one superstar in swimming, as you need a whole team in this sport. It’s a long training season, starting back in August, so we’ll have to learn to pace ourselves. We’ve got a young, fearless team and we’re working hard to grow and get better.”
Aside from now being a combined team, there are other changes for the team, as the schedule has been changed from what it usually looks like. For a program that just joined the ACC a couple of years ago, this can be tough, but Litzinger feels good about how the team will respond.
“We’re looking to have a great dual-meet season which can put us on the path for reaching our goals of performing well at ACCs and NCAAs,” Litzinger said. “The key will come down to developing confidence. We’ve retooled a more competitive schedule and we really want this team to be in the fire every week. Last year the schedule was more tentative, but with the new schedule I want to see us racing with confidence. I’m excited to see how we respond to our increased competition, and ultimately I think it will be positive.”