Underdog Open Women Head To NCAA Championships With Momentum, Speed
Many of their 18 consecutive trips to the NCAA Championships have been basically a given for the members on the Princeton open rowing team. There were Tiger teams loaded from Day 1, simply trying to maximize their talents for two postseason weekends.
This season was different. Nothing was a given.
And maybe that makes this particular squad particularly dangerous.
The trying times began in a winter unlike any other in recent Prince-ton history, when frigid temperatures and a barrage of snowstorms severely limited the Tigers’ time on the water. The Tigers had plenty of work to do, especially after losing four seniors from the 2013 NCAA silver medalist, but they simply couldn’t get on the water.
When the season started, Princeton split each of its first two weekends. The first included a loss to Brown, which eventually moved to the top of the national rankings and the top seed at the May 18 Ivy League Championships. The other was a loss to Virginia, currently the fourth-ranked team in the nation.
That race was April 5. It was the last time Princeton has experienced defeat.
“I am super excited to see what we can do,” said senior Kelsey Reelick, one of five Tigers to earn All-Region honors this week. “Ever since the beginning of the season, every race we’ve done, every piece we’ve done, we’ve taken something we can improve on, and we’ve just nailed it in the practices and fixed it for the next race. If we keep this climb, we can do something really cool. It would be fantastic.”
Reelick would know. She has had a pair of fantastic experiences at the NCAA Championships; as a freshman, she was part of the 2011 NCAA gold medalist V8, and she helped last year’s boat to a silver medal in the V8 final.
This year, she has stroked Princeton to seven straight regular season wins and its stirring victory over No. 1 Brown two weeks ago on Cooper River to win the program’s 14th Ivy League championship.
Now she will lead Princeton to Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind., for the three-day NCAA Championships, where the Tigers will be looking for both their third V8 national championship (2006, 2011) and their first team national title.
Unlike either the open women’s Ivy League championship regatta, or the IRA national championships for the other three Princeton teams, the NCAA Championships are determined by a team format. The Tigers will bring a V8, as well as Ivy Championship bronze medalists in a 2V and a V4; each will produce points based on their overall finish, with the points weighted (a winning V8 scores 48 team points, while a 2V scores 32 and a V4 scores 16).
The varsity eight comes in with the momentum of its thrilling performance on Cooper River, when it led at every split and never let Brown draw even to win its third Ivy League title in four years. A boat that spent most of the year trying to find itself may have done so at the most opportune time.
“I think we will go in with some positive energy,” said head coach Lori Dauphiny, who has guided Princeton to each of its NCAA Championship appearances. “I think we are a bit of an underdog, but this boat has shown some speed recently that has been impressive. I look forward to see what they can do at nationals, and I think they are excited to take it to another level.”
While the varsity boat is looking to build off the Ivy Championships, the second varsity is hoping for a bit of redemption. After completing a perfect regular season, the Tigers saw both Brown and Harvard finish in front of them at Cooper River. It was the first experience of six-boat racing for the 2V, and one it hopes will lead the team to a stronger showing at NCAAs.
“Six-boat racing is always a huge change from the regular season,” junior Nicki Byl said. “Everything, including the warm up, is much more chaotic. Our boat has really focused on staying internal, and the racing at Ivies has definitely helped to prepare us for the upcoming six-boat racing at NCAAs.”
The same holds true for the varsity four, though that boat has been on a significant upswing since mid-April. After a fairly inconsistent start to its season, the four won each of its last two regular season weekends and then out-performed its seed to earn bronze at Ivies.
“After a tough start to the season we gained a lot more confidence in our ability to win races and not get rattled by a rough start or any off strokes throughout a race,” senior Sally Goodman said. “Over the past month we’ve had a number of changes in the boat in terms of personnel, but we’ve definitely used our experience rowing in different lineups to get better at adapting to any situation that comes our way.
“The confidence we gained during the Yale race and the weeks following has also given us motivation to work even harder in order to prepare for close competition at the Ivy championships and at NCAAs, as we know we can push through crews at the very end,” she added.
While this competitive squad hasn’t needed added reason to improve throughout the season, the team format of the NCAA Championships does provide a nice source of motivation for both the 2V and the V4.
“The NCAA format is a great motivation,” Byl said. “Each race, beginning with the heats, is critical. We know the competition will be intense and it has been great for motivation for our boat and our team as we have been preparing. The balance between boat and team is one that’s always on our minds throughout the whole season. In the winter we go from competing against one another on the ergs to competing together in boats. In our spring practices, we (the 2V and 1V) compete with each other every day in the week and then cheer each other on during the weekend.
“NCAAs will be a great way for us to focus all that competition and energy that we’ve built throughout the year—for our individual boats and for all of us Tigers coming together as a team.”
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS RACING SCHEDULE
Friday, May 30
9:10 V8 Heat #1
9:20 V8 Heat #2
9:30 V8 Heat #3 (Princeton)
9:40 V8 Heat #4
9:50 2V8 Heat #1
10:00 2V8 Heat #2 (Princeton)
10:10 2V8 Heat #3
10:20 2V8 Heat #4
10:30 V4 Heat #1 (Princeton)
10:40 V4 Heat #2
10:50 V4 Heat #3
3:50 V8 Repechage #1
4:00 V8 Repechage #2
4:10 2V8 Repechage #1
4:20 2V8 Repechage #2
4:30 V4 Repechage #1
4:40 V4 Repechage #2
Saturday, May 31
8:30 V8 C/D Semifinal #1
8:40 V8 C/D Semifinal #2
8:50 V8 A/B Semifinal #1
9:00 V8 A/B Semifinal #2
9:10 2V8 C/D Semifinal #1
9:20 2V8 C/D Semifinal #2
9:30 2V8 A/B Semifinal #1
9:40 2V8 A/B Semifinal #2
9:50 V4 C/D Semifinal #1
10:00 V4 C/D Semifinal #2
10:10 V4 A/B Semifinal #1
10:20 V4 A/B Semifinal #2
Sunday, June 1
8:30 V4 D Final
8:40 V4 C Final
8:50 2V8 D Final
9:00 2V8 C Final
9:10 V8 D Final
9:20 V8 C Final
10:00 V4 Petite Final
10:10 V4 Grand Final
10:20 2V8 Petite Final
10:30 2V8 Grand Final
10:40 V8 Petite Final
10:50 V8 Grand Final