Former Big East rival, and future ACC rivals when Louisville joins the conference next year, the Louisville Cardinals continued their magical 2013-2014 run with a 186-114 win on Friday over Notre Dame in Louisville.
“I am proud of the way we raced today,” said U of L head coach Arthur Albiero. “It was a good emotional component across the board to keep fighting. We knew it was going to be a close meet. When you look at the score, it is awfully deceiving. There were a lot of close races that we were able to win. I want to give a shout out to diver Sean Piner, who really stepped up to win the 1-meter diving. That was a definitely a huge move for him. Across the board, the guys did a really good job of stepping up. The challenge was not for the same guys to carry us but for the new guys to step up and a number of them did.”
In the meet-opening 200 medley relay, the Cardinals won 1:28.65 to Notre Dame’s 1:29.89.
That race was fairly even until Louisville junior Caryle Blondell anchored the Cardinals in 19.38 to break things open. That split will be the key to a possible top 8-10 finish at the NCAA Championships, as it allows the Cardinals to use Joao de Lucca on the other four relays, and still get big points out of this group.
Blondell would actually beat his Brazilian teammate in the 50 free with a 19.96 to de Lucca’s 20.20, and Notre Dame’s Frank Dyer placed 3rd in 20.43.
The same three showed down again, and though they were flip-flopped, it was another Louisville 1-2. De Lucca was a 43.57 for the win, and Blondell was 2nd in 43.61; Dyer placed 3rd in 45.46. De Lucca and Blondell have been the fastest 1-2 punch in the country in the spring semester so far in this race, and one of the best in the country overall as well.
In the 200 free, De Lucca won running away in an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 1:36.96. That’s Dyer’s best race as well, with both swimmers aiming for finishes in the NCAA A-final in two months.
Louisville completed a 5-race sweep of the freestyle events thanks to a 4:34.32 in the 500 and a 9:17.82 in the 1000 from sophomore Bryan Draganosky. With that dominance in the individual races, it is little surprise that the Cardinals won the meet-closing 400 free relay by a much bigger margin than the medley – 3:00.33 to 3:03.00. That’s even with De Lucca splitting just a 44.41: his worst swim of the day.
Notre Dame’s best results came in the butterfly events. Dyer won the 100 in 49.03, followed by his teammate John Williamson in 49.14. Dyer’s made huge improvements in his butterfly swimming this year as a senior.
Williamson won the 200 fly in 1:46.42 to give Notre Dame a sweep of that discipline, which is also Louisville’s weakest.
After Nick Nemetz won the 3-meter springboard event, Zach Stephens came back in the last individual event to give the Fighting Irish a 4th event win with a 1:49.26 in the 200 IM.
But the Cardinals were too strong and had built up a more-than-insurmountable lead by that point. Even in events where Notre Dame is very good, like the aforementioned freestyles with Dyer, and the breaststroke races with Stephens, Louisville still looked dominant. Kameron Chastain won the 100 breaststroke in 54.16, by more than a second over Stephens; in the 200, the race was much closer, but it was another Chastain win 1:58.95-1:59.08 – nearly giving up a big halfway lead in the event.
Louisville will be back in action on Saturday, as rivals Kentucky come to town. This is a meet that the men only won by four points last season.
Notre Dame returns home for the two-day Shamrock Invitational next weekend before finishing their regular season against Cleveland State.