In the first time in a long time, the men's swimming and diving team will enter a meet as the clear-cut favorite.
Since winning their first two meets against IUPUI and Valparaiso, the Cardinals have dropped six straight dual meets. The team will look to make that streak a memory at 11 a.m. Saturday, as they welcome Mid-American Conference foes Bowling Green and Buffalo to Lewellen Aquatic Center.
In comparing the three teams, all have talented individuals who will lead the way. The deciding factor, however, could be team depth, where the Cardinals have the advantage. But talent is what wins swim meets, and head coach Bob Thomas has not overlooked that in preparing for this weekend.
"In any meet, I look at the other teams as being stronger. I look for their strong points and that's what I try to attack," Thomas said. "If either of these teams prepares properly and comes in here to beat us, it could be very challenging to beat them. Even though they lack depth, they both have guys who can race with our best guys."
Although both teams were hit hard by graduation, Bowling Green and Buffalo still have ammunition to fire against the Cardinals. The Falcons return senior Kevin Anderson and junior Ray Bartel, MAC finalists in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard breaststroke, respectively. Also, freshman Bobby McRae has given the team a boost in the butterfly events.
"Bowling Green is a team to which I give the utmost respect," Thomas said. "They are a hard-working outfit; they get in and race, and we've had great competitions with them."
The Bulls are led by junior backstroker Tony Lizauckas, who was named MAC swimmer of the week for the week of Dec.13.
Freshman breaststroker Aviv Oren has had several strong performances, including a faster time in the 100-yard event than Cardinals Clint Cadden and Zach Smith at the Miami Invitational.
Fellow freshman Dustin Hui won the 1,000 and 500-yard freestyle events in a recent dual-meet victory over Niagara. The Bulls distance corps is also bolstered by sophomore Alan Lowe, which should provide for strong competition for Cardinals Ryan Bounds, Rich Olney and John Hubbard.
"We haven't been competing against them (Buffalo) as long but, I remember them beating us three years ago," Thomas said. "When I think of Buffalo, that's what I remember and I really want to beat them."
Thomas said his team is excited about the prospect of breaking its losing streak, but is also focused on the overall goal for the season.
"Each week, we want to swim faster," Thomas said. "Our goal is to swim faster this weekend than we did against Ohio State. Next weekend, we'll want to go faster than that. But there's no question that facing a MAC team brings out the best in us."