The 2011 Princeton women’s lightweight season was a thriller from start to finish. The senior-laden Tigers capped a perfect regular season with an Eastern title over Wisconsin, and they nearly caught Stanford at the wire in the IRA national final.
Last season was a far different tale, though not a completely unexpected one. Experience was replaced by youth, and Princeton was forced to trade victories for improvement. It may not have been as enjoyable, but the steps were necessary, and the rowers rewarded the coaching staff with consistent dedication and enthusiasm.
This year, the Tigers are looking forward to showing just how far they have come over these 12 months, and they are willing to travel just about anywhere to prove it.
Princeton will open its 2013 season Easter Sunday morning against Wisconsin in a showdown of the last two EAWRC champions. The Tigers will also make two trips to California, including one for the IRA national championships. They will race more times on the Charles River (twice) than on Lake Carnegie (once), and they will return to Cooper River for the Eastern Sprints on May 5.
"We were really excited for fall racing this year and put lots of hard work in on the water, but coming out of the fall season, I think our entire team knew we were capable of so much more than we showed," junior Maggie Stroebel said. "It really put a fire under us going into the winter season and Tampa for our training trip. The team is at full strength right now, with everyone healthy and firing on all cylinders. We’re ready to surprise some people this season."
While the whole group has put in the effort during the offseason, two of the big reasons for optimism rest in both the captain and the sophomore class.
Senior Alex Morss is the captain and is coming off a trip to Trakai, Lithuania, for the U-23 World Championships last summer; she earned the lone LW1x spot by winning at the trials at nearby Mercer Lake.
"Although she’s the captain now, Alex has been an incredible leader on our team since my freshman year," Stroebel said. "She may not always be the most vocal person on the team, but she leads by example. She walks the walk. Alex puts her heart and soul into the success of our team, and deserves beyond everything she has earned for herself in rowing. She is one of the absolute top collegiate lightweight women in the country and an inspiration to our whole team. I have immense respect for her."
The current sophomore class had a strong effort at Sprints last season, placing second in the novice final.
The second varsity race will open Sunday competition at 8 am, while the first varsity showdown will conclude the morning at 9:30. The Badgers are the reigning league power, though Morss was part of the 2011 Tiger crew that knocked off Wisconsin by nearly four seconds for its first Sprints crown since 2003.
“That was pretty special,” Morss said of that championship row down Cooper River. “Especially for those seniors, who hadn’t beaten Wisco, it made me realize how special that experience was.”
The rivalry between Princeton and Wisconsin is often settled on Cooper River, though they have had several early-season races in California as well. For this Princeton roster, though, it will be the first time the Tigers will get to race the Badgers on Lake Carnegie. The two programs have met five times previously on Lake Carnegie, though only one time since the 2001 season (May 3, 2008).