Northwestern will try to take a page out of coach Pat Fitzgerald and the football team’s book for the rest of the season.
“Just go 1-0 this week,” junior Andrew Seitz said.
It’s a simple motto, but one that has allowed the Wildcats to forget about past difficulties with conference foes and move on to the next challenge: a meet with Badgers on Friday in the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion.
Coach Jarod Schroeder emphasized scheduling tougher opponents for his team this year in hopes to prepare it for the Big Ten Championships.
“We’re trying to put ourselves against teams that are better than us on paper because we want to be that type of team now and in the future,” Schroeder said.
This will undoubtedly be a special meet for senior Chase Stephens, who is from Madison, Wis., and whose parents both graduated from Wisconsin. Stephens said he’s friendly with a good amount of the swimmers and has done as much as he can to help the Cats prepare for the Badgers.
Stephens also mentioned that swimming against a Big Ten opponent at home definitely has its advantages for a young NU squad. Not only will the smaller Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center be louder than a bigger natatorium, but the familiar pool also brings its own comfort.
“Each pool kind of has its own feel,” Stephens said. “One thing I like is being comfortable in the pool, knowing where the pads on the wall are and stuff like that. Creating your environment for success is always easier at home.”
NU and Wisconsin have had their fair share of wins over the past couple of years against each other. Last year, the Badgers easily took down the Cats in Madison, but in 2011, NU took care of business in Evanston with a decisive win.
Schroeder didn’t say the Badgers were the Cats’ biggest rival but he admitted each team has a lot of respect for the other.
“When I volunteered at Wisconsin, the coaches there always looked at it as a big meet,” he said. “I think it’s kind of continued over the years. It’s been something that’s been going on for a while now in the pool.”
NU has found more success with smaller, more intimate dual meet settings because those types of events don’t overwhelm the Cats’ short roster when they are cheering for each other along the side of the pool. Seitz said it’s a big element that he hopes will help them against a tough Badgers team.
“We really thrive on the close duals,” Seitz said. “I don’t think anyone is going to shy away from Wisconsin because they are a Big Ten team. It’s another proving point for us within the Big Ten conference that we’re competitive, and we are going to fight.”
After last week’s disappointing performance against Ohio State and Purdue, Schroeder hopes to have a near opposite result from his team at home against Wisconsin.
“They’re supposed to win according to the rankings and the best time sheets,” Schroeder said. “We’re just hoping to compete well and show them that it’s not going to be an easy meet for them.”
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