Nov. 14, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The longest road trip of the fall schedule for the Notre Dame men's swimming and diving team yielded a split 2-2 dual meet record for the Irish. Following wins at the United States Air Force Academy (134-128, Oct. 25) and at Pittsburgh (162-138, Nov. 9), Notre Dame (2-4) is eagerly anticipating its first home meets in more than a month when the Irish welcome Michigan State Friday at 5 p.m. and Wisconsin Saturday at 11 a.m. to Rolfs Aquatic Center.
"We were away the whole week of fall break, traveled three weeks in a row, and we were able to swim faster every week," Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh said. "For us, it's great to be home and we love our pool, love training here and racing here. It's great to be back and we have two worthy Big Ten opponents this week, and whereas we have been challenging ourselves with one meet on a weekend, this time we will go back-to-back a little more than 12 hours apart."
Being able to prepare both mentally, and physically, for a quick competition turnaround is something that the Notre Dame team members are used to in the sport of swimming and diving. Welsh said that despite there being two separate dual meet opponents on the schedule for the weekend, the easiest way to approach the meets is to adopt a championship competition mentality.
"It's a discipline that is common in our sport," he said. "We are accustomed to championship meets having finals in the evening and preliminary events again the next morning. In a way it's going to be like Friday night finals, Saturday morning prelims. If we are in that mindset, we will be fine."
The Friday-Saturday double dual slate will be the first home events for the Irish since opening the season with the Dennis Stark Relays on Oct. 11 and competing in a follow up tri-dual the following day against Auburn and Michigan (Oct. 12). The extended travel, in many ways, is another of the many factors teams have to adapt to during the end of the season championship push, and Welsh believes it will pay dividends for the team later in the year.
"Everything at that time of the year is on the road, so while it was tiring, it was also great preparation," he said. "One of the situations we experienced that is often true come championship time is that things do not always go the way you think they will. There is always a surprise or things might not go exactly as planned, and having some experience like that is always helpful, and you learn from it."
Michigan State enters Friday's meet coming off a 166-134 loss to Grand Valley State on Nov. 8 at the McCaffree Pool in East Lansing. It was only the second dual meet on the Spartans schedule thus far in 2013-14.
"Michigan State has very good depth, and when we talked to the guys about that, whatever they do, they can do more than once," Welsh said. "We are looking at that to say it may be hard to finish in between them, so the challenge is to finish ahead of them because we don't want to finish behind them. They have great team depth, and we expect them to be ready when they get here for sure."
Wisconsin arrives at Notre Dame after opening the season with dual meets against current national No. 3 California, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Georgia and No. 7 Minnesota.
"Wisconsin brings in a defending national champion (sophomore Drew teDuits, 200 back) in the backstroke events, and they have traveled this fall to race some of the best teams in the country," Welsh said. "They are a seasoned team competitively, and they have experienced the peak of NCAA excellence, so they will be good.
"These are two Big Ten teams, and there are no easy teams in the Big Ten," he said. "It's a great challenge for us."
The double dual weekend will be Notre Dame's final meet action before the Iowa Hawkeye Invitational Dec. 6-8 at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in Iowa City, Iowa. Welsh said that a number of spots in the lineup for the final competition of the fall semester would be set in large part based on results this weekend.
"The beauty of the Iowa invitational meet is that we ask the guys what they want to swim," Welsh said. "Guys get to swim what they think their best events are. It is unlike a dual meet, where we will have four lanes on Friday night. If we have five guys who want to swim an event, we don't have the space. When we go to Iowa, we can put as many guys into an event as we want or need to, so the entry process is totally different.
"The focus on making the Hawkeye Invitational the focal meet of the fall semester has been consistent for a few years," he said. "Like we say, we always take our final exam in swimming first. The guys come back from that meet and go into the last week of class and right into finals."
-- Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant