Men’s swim and dive looking to make statement at ACC Championships
Nate Moller | Friday, February 26, 2021
The men’s swim and dive team will be back in competition this week at the ACC Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, where they will look to cement themselves as one of the better teams in the ACC.
Head coach Mike Litzinger discussed how he believes that the men’s team often does not receive the credit they deserve.
“They’re coming in with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Litzinger said. “We took Louisville right down to the last relay [last month]. They’re a really well respected men’s team, and they’ll be fighting for a top three position, as we will too.”
Although the team has a lot to prove, the 17th-ranked Irish will be up against stiff competition with the meet featuring ACC powerhouses such as 5th-ranked North Carolina State, 7th-ranked Louisville, 10th-ranked Virginia, 13th-ranked Virginia Tech, 15th-ranked Florida State and 18th-ranked North Carolina.
Litzinger discussed the difficulty of the competition in the ACC.
“When you look at the ACC, we have seven teams ranked in the top 25, which is more than any other conference in the country,” Litzinger said. “It will be a battle, period. We’ve got something to prove, and we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Litzinger is hopeful that his team can finish in the top four, despite the stiff competition.
“We want to battle to be in that elite area around fourth, third or second. NC State is probably a little too loaded for us right now, as is Louisville,” Litzinger said. “We’re really young, but I think that we look towards the NCAA and trying to get a great group of guys to that meet is going to be the priority.”
Litzinger addressed his team’s early deficit after the diving portion of competition.
“I want us to swim like a team. We have a lot of ground to make up,” he said. “Our team has had to scratch and claw the last couple of years to get into that top four. That’s a lot of points to make up, so we’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up to them right now.”
Litzinger has high expectations for swimmers individually as well.
“Obviously [sophomore] Jack Hoagland will be in the mix. He’s very talented,” Litzinger said. “I’m really enjoying what I’m seeing from [junior] Josh Bottelberghe and [first-year] Tyler Christianson. I think that they’ll do very well in their events.”
Litzinger also hopes that younger swimmers can step up and perform at a high level.
“I would really like to see some of our first-years step forward. This will be a meet unlike they’ve ever been to, but I think they have the talent to step up,” Litzinger said. “There are a bunch of guys that are coming to this meet for the first time, so they need to be ready and prepared. You look at a guy like [sophomore] Cason Wilburn. He had an average meet last year, but he’s been really doing well this year, so I think he’ll be a factor as well.”
Being able to compete at the ACC Championships after a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic is a huge relief for the whole team. Litzinger discussed his relief after the women’s ACC Championships kicked off last week.
“As soon as the first event went off and a score was put up on the board, it was a win,” Litzinger said. “For us to be able to be here and compete and be with each other is really fantastic, so that’s a win in itself. We’re going to see what we can do with everything we’ve got presented in front of us.”
While the ACC Championships are important, it will also prepare the Irish for the even stiffer competition at the NCAA Championships next month. Litzinger talked about how this meet will lead perfectly into the NCAA Championships.
“It’s certainly a precursor, and it’s certainly our major qualifier for it,” he said. “It will get us used to competing against the best of the best. It’s almost a mini NCAA championship really, and it will prepare our kids well for [the NCAA Championships].”
Events began on Wednesday in Greensboro and conclude on Saturday.