ND women prepare for ACC Championships
Charlotte Edmonds | Wednesday, February 20, 2019
With over two weeks since their last meet, the 19th-ranked Irish women will return to the pool Wednesday with a lot on the line as they look to establish themselves among the elite teams at the ACC Conference Championship.
“We’re really excited and thrilled,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Litzinger said. “We’ve had a great year, and the championship is always the culmination of all the work you’ve put in throughout the year and it’s our opportunity to take ourselves to the next level, which is the NCAA championship.”
Taking place in Greensboro, North Carolina, the women will compete from Wednesday to Saturday, followed by the men’s competition the following week. This meet is the final qualifying opportunity for athletes to advance to the NCAA championship in Austin, Texas, next month. Litzinger said he has high expectations from juniors Abbie Dolan, senior Alice Treuth and sophomore Lindsay Stone, who have all led the way for the program over the past year. He also commended sophomore Kelly Straub, junior Erin Isola and freshman Annie Wiese for their performances in the diving competition, and said he is looking forward to their showings in Greensboro.
“What we’re looking for is these athletes not only to compete at their highest level of the year, but to have the rest of the team step forward. … Those kids have already punched their ticket to the NCAAs so we want to get their teammates to go along to the fastest meet of the year and that would be in Austin, Texas, in March,” Litzinger said.
Although he acknowledged the importance of those superstars of the program, he emphasized the need for a strong team showing from top to bottom in improving the school’s standing long-term.
“We have our Zach Yeadons of the world, Marci Bartas, Abbie Dolan. But the best thing about the teams that we’ve built here at Notre Dame is our depth,” Litzinger said. “It’s not necessarily about winning, it’s about scoring points … that’s what it’s all about at the conference level. Not just your upper-quality kids, but your team showing. … That’s how you move up in the conference.”
Litzinger — who has extensive experience in the conference, having served as the associate head coach at University of North Carolina prior to taking the job at Notre Dame — is confident that the depth and talent of the ACC will serve as a good litmus test for his team before they face the national stage.
“The ACC has developed into one of the elite conferences for swimming and diving,” Litzinger said. “So when you have teams like Virginia and Louisville who are always the top-10 in the country, that’s elite company to be in. When I took over at Notre Dame three years ago, we were seventh in the ACC. Last year, we finished fifth and we’re looking to vault up into that top four and play with the top three teams of the conference, which will again be Virginia, NC State and Louisville.”
Beyond those top three competitors, the Irish can expect to have to fight for their place, with six of the teams competing being ranked among the top-25 teams in the country.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side of the competition, Litzinger and his coaching staff are keeping their athletes fresh and prepared with a week standing between them and their own conference meet.
“I think our guys are kind of in the same situation as the women,” Litzinger said. “When I took over, we were seventh in the league, my second year we did finish third. We finished just behind Virginia for fourth place last year by a couple of points.”
Litzinger connected program improvements to increased recruiting efforts and investment in athletes over their careers at Notre Dame.
“Our recruiting efforts and the development of the athletes that are in the program have really taken a great turn,” he said. “We’re really expecting a lot … we’re going to be in that elite group.”
With the top-24 individuals of every event earning points for their team score, Litzinger said his goal for the Irish this week is to score four or five individuals per event, and is excited to see how they perform on the big stage.
“Proud of our coaches, proud of our kids and I think we’re ready to do some great things,” he said.
The women’s ACC Championships begin Wednesday and will go through Saturday.