‘Why not now?’: Irish catapult into new season with goals of postseason dominance
Madeline Ladd | Wednesday, November 1, 2023
After a successful season testing the waters last year with new head coach Chris Lindauer, Notre Dame swim and dive walked into this season “starving” to hit their extremely big goals of postseason dominance. Achieving second in the ACC and cracking the top-10 rankings were goals mentioned by the team, in addition to developing a level of consistency. Focused on “controlling the controllable” and managing a holistic student-athlete approach, Lindauer has created a culture of accountability among the team.
“There’s a whiteboard up in the weight room that metaphorically says, ‘Are you satisfied, are you hungry or are you starving?’” Lindauer said. “We are starving, even though last year was a phenomenal year for us across the board. You reflect and you want to embrace and celebrate those moments of achievement. But you also want to level up and dream big. It’s a level up mindset mentality and something we are constantly focusing on — how can we get a little bit better everyday?”
The Irish have swam a slate of four dual meets thus far — Wisconsin, Purdue, Penn State and Pitt — with the men dominating 4-0 and the women splitting 2-2.
Men’s Swim and Dive
The No. 17 men have a perfect record so far on the season, dominating Wisconsin, Purdue and Penn State while eking out a narrow win over Pitt. Early performances from Irish returners such as sophomore backstroker Tommy Janton and junior freestyler and captain Chris Guiliano propelled the Irish toward these wins. Graduate freestyler Abdelrahman El-Araby, a Louisville transfer, also put substantial points on the board.
The most recent 177.5-175.5 victory over the Panthers resulted from wins in all four relays and dominant individual performances when it counted most. Guiliano said the team started out slow but eventually turned it around and got the energy in the pool back up.
“We lost a couple close races, and one thing I really wanted to do was get the momentum back for us,” Guiliano said. “Having the 50 and 100 [freestyle] was a great way to shift that momentum and let the guys know, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this.’ We had a guys’ team meeting that really fired us up and there was just something like, ‘we should not lose this.’ We are here at Notre Dame and this is what we do.”
And win they did. Graduate student diver Carlo Lopez Hernandez also contributed to the victory, finishing second in the men’s 3-meter and fourth in the 1-meter. These finishes continued his strong performance for the Irish since coming over from Missouri. Though Pitt was a test, the Irish were able to pass. Lindauer emphasized the importance of moments like this.
“Getting tested early and often allows you to build character and growth. And that allows that growth to be applied down the road to the main focus,” Lindauer said. “For us, that’s ACCs and NCAAs. I certainly want to win dual meets and certainly want to be competitive, but everything we do is focused on the postseason.”
A likely standout in the postseason will be Guiliano, who wasted no time making headlines again this year when he was named ACC Swimmer of the Week on Oct. 24. Last year’s 200 freestyle ACC champion won a total of seven events against Pitt and Penn State, posting the fastest 100 freestyle time in the NCAA this year. Guiliano also ranks third or better in the nation in all three of his events: 50, 100 and 200 freestyle. His experience on the world stage competing at the 2023 World Aquatic Championships in Japan is something Guiliano feels changed his approach for the better.
“This season compared to the other two seasons, this is the most confident I’ve ever been,” Guiliano said. “Coming into this year it’s also the most motivated I’ve ever been. Now that I’ve made the world stage, I just want to stay there. Every time, before I go up for a race I just remember everything I’ve done in the past, and I know what I’m capable of. It just gives me the confidence to go up there and win.”
Lindauer said Guiliano’s strong performances have helped him grow as a leader.
“Guiliano is one of those guys that is world-class, and he leads with his ability to perform. And he’s one of the hardest workers in the pool. It’s exciting to pour in that work because he sets the standards,” he said.
Women’s Swim and Dive
The Irish women are currently 2-2 on the season, having regrouped with decisive victories over Penn State and Pitt. Junior freestyler Maggie Graves was a double event winner at the most recent meet in the 1000 and 500 freestyle, notching a personal best in the 500. Graves remarked on the mindset shift post-Purdue that she believes allowed the Irish to notch their two recent victories.
“We’ve done the training, we’ve prepared and ultimately what came down was a mentality shift and believing in ourselves a little more,” Graves said. “I know that sounds a little cliche, but we know we are a better team than we are performing. We also got a little confidence boost suiting up against Pitt and Penn State.”
The two-day nature of the meet was an advantage for the women’s team, Graves said, as they found their confidence early and stayed consistent throughout the duration of the competition.
“We had some great relays [to] start off and the energy, we all got a little bit more hyped,” Graves said. “I think everyone was just a little bit more rested, relaxed and ready to go for Pitt and Penn State.”
Graves said the synergy between the men’s and women’s teams has greatly improved since the coaching change last year.
“We have a great men’s program, and they have a lot of talent and energy they bring to our overall team,” Graves said. “They support us and we support them. We practice with one another, which is a really big motivator. Seeing their success motivates us as well. The coaches want one big team, and they do a good job of taking into account the different needs of each team.”
Looking ahead: Louisville and midseason invite
After a weekend off, Notre Dame prepares to take on Lindauer’s collegiate and coaching alma mater down in Louisville, Kentucky. The Cardinals, ranked No. 12 for the men and No. 3 for the women, have consistently competed well in the swimming world each year. Notre Dame will need all hands on deck this weekend, but the team is embracing the challenge.
“It’s another great challenge,” Lindauer said. “But also, with every one of those challenges, what do we learn from it? We want to apply whatever that is moving forward to the next meet so that ultimately we can get better from it.”
Beyond Louisville, the Irish look toward the annual three-day, mid-season invitational at Ohio State beginning Nov. 16. Divers will compete the same weekend at IUPUI, further preparing their lineup for ACCs and gaining more experience. For Lindauer, eyes are on the NCAA prize — especially in terms of relay cuts as early and often as possible.
“It’s a great opportunity to put up NCAA standards and qualify,” Lindauer said. “The formula for top 10 and top five at NCAAs is relays. So obviously getting A cuts in our relays midseason is a huge goal of ours. We didn’t get an A cut in the relay until the very last opportunity at ACCs last year, so I want to get that out of the way earlier this time around. Let’s go get qualified for NCAAs — why not now?”
Riding off of their recent victories, the Irish will face off against Louisville on Friday at Ralph Wright Auditorium in Louisville at 4:30 p.m.