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    Notre Dame Winter Sports Preview: Women's Swimming & Diving

    FIGHTING IRISH Two-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year Brian Barnes has led the Fighting Irish to two conference titles since coming to Notre Dame in 2008-09.
    Two-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year Brian Barnes has led the Fighting Irish to two conference titles since coming to Notre Dame in 2008-09.

    Oct. 15, 2010

    Women's Swimming Video Preview

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third in a six-part series on UND.com, spotlighting the 2010-11 Notre Dame winter sports season with both written and video previews. Today, we take a look at the Fighting Irish women's swimming & diving team that has taken a stranglehold on BIG EAST Championship hardware ever since joining the conference in 1995-96, winning 14 consecutive conference titles.

    Brian Barnes feels like he is in the right place at the right time.

    "Being here at Notre Dame has been a dream come true for me," said the Osceola, Ind., native and third-year head coach of the Irish swimming and diving program. "I'm at the best university in the world. I'm back home with my friends and family, and blessed to be able to lead an incredible swimming and diving program."

    Since stepping on campus prior to the 2008-09 season Barnes has since won a pair of BIG EAST titles, two BIG EAST Coach of the Year awards and has sent his student-athletes to the NCAA Championships to bring home three All-American accolades.

    He feels like his team is also in the right place at the time.

    "Our program has won 14 consecutive BIG EAST titles, and I've been lucky enough to have a hand in two of those," Barnes said. "But that stat, is just a stat. While winning the BIG EAST is quite an accomplishment, I want our program to be more dialed in to an NCAA Championship effort. We should excel towards bigger things than just a BIG EAST championship here at Notre Dame.

    "We had two All-Americans in Amywren Miller and Samantha Maxwell last year, and in all due respect to their efforts, that's just a small testament of what we, as a team, can do here at Notre Dame. I'm watching that belief development in our current program - the belief that we can send even more swimmers and divers to the NCAAs. We can get a relay or two into the NCAAs, I believe we can creep into the top 15."

    Senior team captains Katie Casey, Kellyn Kuhlke and Heidi Grossman will help steer the ship for the Irish throughout the 2010-11 season.

    Senior breaststroker Samantha Maxwell is the reigning BIG EAST Swimmer of the Year and earned honorable mention All-America status last year after a 14th-place finish in the 100 breast at last year's NCAA Championships.

    Casey and Kuhlke each excel in the butterfly, as Casey was third in the 200-yard version of the event in 2010 at the league meet after setting a BIG EAST record and winning the crown in 2009. Kuhlke turned in season-best times in both the 100 and 200 fly at the BIG EAST meet, finishing in third place in the 100 fly with a time of 54.25.

    Grossman hopes to improve upon her 2010 BIG EAST fourth-place finishes in both the 1- and 3-meter events as the lone senior diver on the roster.

    Senior Lauren Parisi is coming off a season in which she set several personal-best times and swam to a season-best performance at the 2010 BIG EAST event as an exhibition swimmer. Along with Delia Cronin, Meg Reynolds also had season-best times at the BIG EAST meet, and fellow senior Lauren Sylvester swam in a myriad of events for the Irish over the course of last season, ranging from the 100 free to the 1,650 free, and will be one of the top distance swimmers in the league in 2010-11.

    Maxwell, the reigning BIG EAST Swimmer of the Year, won all but one breaststroke event prior to the 2010 NCAA meet. After earning a 14th-place finish in the 100 breast at the NCAA Championships with a time of 1:01.09, she was named an honorable mention All-American for her performance. Miller earned an All-America accolade for the first time in her Notre Dame career in 2010, finishing eighth in the 50 free at the NCAAs while breaking her own school record. She is slated to be one of the league's - and nation's - top sprinters this season.

    The three-person junior class of Emily Barton, Gwen Blythe and Amy Presintario certainly makes its presence felt year in and year out. Barton hopes to once again swim in the final races of the 400 IM and 100 fly at the BIG EAST meet, just as she did in 2010. Blythe was sixth in the 100 breast and tied for ninth in the 200 breast last season, and should continue to develop under the wing of Maxwell in those events. Prestinario amassed two BIG EAST honors as a sophomore - two relays (200 free, 400 free) and one individual (100 free) - and has bettered her times in all freestyle events in each of the last two seasons.

    Second-year student-athletes in Jenny Chiang (BIG EAST 3-meter champion), Gracie Fredlake (fourth in the 500 free and 1,650 free), Jaime Malandra (12th in the 1,650 free), Lauren Scott (all-BIG EAST in 200 free relay), Kimmie Lisiak (career-day came at Shamrock Invitational) and Kim Holden (four BIG EAST titles in 2010) will be expected to parlay outstanding freshmen performances with an even better sophomore year. Additionally, Holden enters her sophomore season with six all-BIG EAST accolades and a pair of school records in the 100 and 200 backstroke. She also recorded Notre Dame's fastest time in the 100 fly (54.12) last season.

    Sophomore Jenny Chiang was the BIG EAST 3-meter diving champion last year.

    Notre Dame starts the 2010-11 season by heading to Alabama for a tri-meet at Auburn with LSU on Oct. 22. The meet will mark the first occasion that Barnes brings his own squad to Auburn - where he served as an assistant - since becoming head coach of the Fighting Irish.

    Notre Dame will stay on the road when it matches up against Big Ten foe Michigan State (Oct. 29). The Irish will enter the meet with a 6-0 record against the Spartans.

    Purdue (Nov. 6) and Utah (Nov. 12) visit Notre Dame on consecutive weekends, and the first half of the swimming campaign concludes with the three-day U.S. Nationals meet in Columbus, Ohio (Dec. 2-4). The Irish diving squad will travel Dec. 3-5 to take part in the Iowa Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa.

    Notre Dame visits Honolulu, Hawaii, for its annual winter training trip and hits the water against Hawaii on Jan. 4.

    "The value that this trips gives to the program in terms of bonding, hard work and sunshine will be very useful for us as we hit our business portion of the season, which will be February and March," Barnes said.

    Notre Dame travels to Evanston, Ill., on Jan. 15 for its second tri-meet of the season against Northwestern and Michigan.

    The first home meet of 2011 will be the Shamrock Invitational (Jan 28-29), and the season wraps up on Feb. 5 versus Ball State

    The 2011 BIG EAST Conference Diving Championships will take place Feb. 11-13 in Louisville, Ky., and will be followed by the swimming events, which are slated for Feb. 16-20.

    The NCAA Zone Diving Championships will take place March 11-13 on the campus of Ohio State University at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion while the NCAA Championships will be held in Austin, Texas, from March 17-19.

    -- ND --


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