By Alan Wasielewski
SOUTH BEND, Ind. Feb. 1. THE NOTRE DAME women's swimming and diving team capped off its 2000-01 dual
meet season with an impressive 24 hours of competition last weekend. Facing ranked opponents in Northwestern and Michigan within the same 24-hour period, the Irish beat the 23rd-ranked Wildcats 154-146 and the 14th-ranked Wolverines at home 157-143.
The two victories, which improved the Irish dual meet record to 10-1 on the season, elevated the team to #15 in the SPEEDO AMERICA Top 25, published on swiminfo.com. The ranking marks the highest Notre Dame has ever risen in the national poll.
Looking forward to championship competition: The Irish now set their sights on the 2001 BIG EAST Champion-ship, held in Long Island, NY, Feb. 15-17. Notre Dame will be pursuing its fifth straight BIG EAST team title in six years of conference competition.
It will take a complete team effort for the Irish to repeat in the highly-competitive BIG EAST meet, but the team boasts a veteran roster that has experienced championship meet pressure before.
Junior backstroker Kelly Hecking (Rutherford, NJ) won the BIG EAST title in the 100 back in 1999 and 2000, while also capturing first place in the 200 back last season. Hecking has been outstanding this season as well, posting NCAA consideration times in both events. Her 100 backstroke time of 55.70 from the Notre Dame Invitational currently ranks as the 16th-best time in
the nation this year. Hecking's 200 backstroke time (2:00.54), also swam at the Notre Dame Invitational, is ranked 17th in the country this season. She was able to improve that time twice last weekend, swimming 2:00.47 in the 200 back vs. Northwestern, then posting 2:00.32 the next day vs. Michigan.
Another consistent performer for the Irish this season has been freshman Marie Labosky (Churchville, Pa.). Labosky has performed well in both the distance freestyle events and the individual medleys. She owns the top times on the team in the 500 free (4:53.49), 1,000 free (10:03.16), 1,650 free (16:51.64), 200 IM (2:04.51) and 400 IM (4:19.81).
Labosky's previous season-best time in the 1,000 free was 10:05.00, which ranked 25th in the nation. Her improvement to 10:03.16 vs. Northwestern should elevate her into the top 20. The 400 IM time of 4:19.81 Labosky put up at the Indiana Invitational is currently ranked 20th in the nation.
The talented Irish roster is not limited to these two swimmers. Freshman Danielle Hulick (Galesburg, Ill.) has the team's top times in the 50 and 100 freestyle and should help the Irish relay teams place highly at the BIG EAST Championship. The entire Notre Dame butterfly roster has been solid over the last few weeks, led by sophomore Amy Deger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and
freshmen Lisa Garcia (Denver, Colo.), Lisa D'Olier (Houston, Texas) and Sarah Bowman (Cheshire, Conn.). All four swimmers posted their best times of the year in the butterfly last weekend, led by Deger's 56.35 in the 100 fly and 2:03.13 in the 200.
While the Irish swimming depth will be counted on at the BIG EAST meet, junior diver Heather Mattingly (Houston, Texas) might be a favorite to win both diving competitions. Mattingly is 6-0 in her last six diving competitions, posting wins in the one- and three-meter events vs. Illinois, Northwestern and Michigan. Her top scores for the year came at Northwestern, where she scored 297.98 off the one-meter board and 351.15 in the three-meter competition. Mattingly has already qualified for the NCAA Zone diving meet this season, where she will hope to improve on her 15th-place, honorable mention All-America finish in both events at the 2000 NCAA Championship meet.
NOTRE DAME MEN
THE NOTRE DAME men's swimming team (5-2) will compete in two meets within 24 hours for the second weekend in a row when the Irish face Cleveland State on the road Friday, Feb. 2 (3 p.m.), then move on to St. Bonaventure Saturday, Feb. 3 (1 p.m.).
The Irish defeated Cleveland State 143-89 last year and hold a 16-10 advantage in the series. Notre Dame and St. Bonaventure have met 33 times, with the Irish holding a 24-9 edge in the series.
Two meets in 24 hours is a tough task, but the Irish handled the challenge last weekend. In two victories over Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Ball State, Notre Dame posted a number of notable performances.
Senior Ryan Verlin (Rye, NY) won four events last weekend, including two individual and one relay victory at Ball State. Verlin won the 200 butterfly at home against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, then won the same event at Ball State in 1:56.55. He also won the 200 butterfly (1:52.52) versus the Cardinals and helped the team get off to a quick start in the meet as a
member of the second-place 400 medley relay team.
Junior Jonathan Pierce (Newburgh, Ind.) continued to excel in the freestyle events. Pierce won the 200 freestyle vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, then stepped up to take first in the 1,000 and 500 freestyle at Ball State. Pierce, the defending BIG EAST champion in the 1,650 freestyle looks to be in top form heading into the championship stretch of the season.
One of the most important developments this season has been the performance of freshman Matt Obringer (Jacksonville, Fla.). Obringer won the 200 freestyle at Ball State and also finished second in the 100 freestyle. Obringer currently holds the best times on the team in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle.
The men's diving contingent has been spectacular this season, providing many important points throughtout the dual meet campaign. Last weekend, senior Herb Huesman (Cincinnati, Ohio) won the one-meter diving competition at Ball State with 305.03 points, just ahead of teammate Andy Maggio (Cincinnati, Ohio). Maggio also won the three-meter competition later in the meet.