Coming off a close victory over Air Force (134-128) during fall break, the Irish look to jump right into the heart of their schedule when they travel to Purdue to take on the Boilermakers for a dual men's/women's meet.
Men's head coach Tim Welsh expects a hard-fought meet right from the get-go.
"[Purdue]'s always good," Welch said. "They're always somewhere in the top 25. We've been racing very well against them in this pool [Rolfs Aquatic Center], but every time we've gone down there, we've stubbed our toe. Our mission tomorrow is to get off the bus and swim fast."
While noting that Purdue is a strong team, Welsh said he believes there are several events in the meet where the Irish have the edge.
"Typically, the first time they show everything they've got it's against us," Welsh said. "We're pretty strong in the 200 breaststroke, we'll be strong in the 200 freestyle, we should be strong in the 200 butterfly. We'll be solid in the [100 and 200] backstroke. They probably will outsprint us in the 50 [freestyle], maybe in the 100. We're going with a 200 freestyle relay at the end of the meet, and we're hoping that's a really close race."
Individually, the Irish will rely on several strong upperclassmen to carry their events. Juniors Zach Stephens, Cameron Miller and John Williamson, as well as senior Frank Dyer, were NCAA qualifiers in their individual events. During the win over Air Force, Dyer, Stephens and Miller were part of the 200-medley relay team that outpaced the rest of the field with a time of 1:30.88, beating the runner-up by more than two seconds. Irish sophomore BogacAyhan rounded out the quartet.
While acknowledging the performances as exemplary, Welsh said the rest of the team is making strides as well.
"Our freshman are doing a great job, and we want them to continue doing a great job," Welsh said. "But also we're early in the season, so the identity of the team is still to be determined.
"And early in the season, we want to see this team and what's going to happen, how its character is going to develop and what its identity is going to be. Right now, the answer is we want everybody [to succeed]."
But ultimately, Welsh said he has high hopes for the team's performance in today's meet against the Boilermakers.
"We think this'll be a big struggle, and we want it that way," Welsh said. "We won't get better if we don't have a big challenge."
The Irish take to the road on Friday to face off against the Boilermakers at 5 p.m.
Contact Mike Ginocchio at firstname.lastname@example.org