With Talent & Depth, 3rd-Ranked Open Women Start Season v. Top-15 Opponents
Lori Dauphiny is entering her 25th year as part of Princeton open crew, and she has been a standard of excellence throughout the quarter century.
But while she may be a paragon of consistency at Princeton, there is still plenty new around this team as it prepares for the 2013 season.
Of course, every team brings both new excitement and challenges, but Dauphiny also has a new coaching staff and a new journey to NCAAs to navigate. She has plenty of returners from last season’s strong NCAA squad, though she will also need to replace a few key figures in the top two boats.
Princeton is coming off an impressive 2012 season, which ended with a Top 4 finish at the NCAA Championships. The Tigers went 8-2 in the regular season, 7-0 in the Ivy League, though the varsity eight fell short in the inaugural Ivy League Sprints. Princeton did win the first Willing Point Trophy after Top 3 finishes in the V8, 2V, V4 and the 3V.
That level of depth is something that Dauphiny has been pleased to see though preseason training with this squad, which included a sixth-place overall (second among colleges) finish at the 2012 Head of the Charles.
“I do think we have increased depth and become a stronger team throughout the ranks,” Dauphiny said. “That ultimately pushes all of our boats to be faster.”
"I think one of the best things that we do on this team is push each other to do better, and competing for seats goes hand in hand with that," junior Angie Gould said. "While everyone is certainly fighting to be in the seat that they want to be in, overall we’re just trying to make the fastest boats possible and that’s the goal we’re working towards."
Princeton returns six of its eight rowers from the varsity eight that reached the NCAA Grand Final, including senior tri-captains Heidi Robbins, Molly Hamrick and Liz Robbins. Robbins served as the stroke last season, and she has impressed during offseason training.
“She has seperated herself in athletic ability,” Dauphiny said of Robbins, who joined Hamrick and junior Kelsey Reelick as underclassmen on the 2011 NCAA champion varsity eight. “But everybody has their own strengths, their own niche. Overall, I think this has been a good winter. We had good growth, and I think we made some real steps forward in all of our boats.”
Dauphiny has been pleased with the work of assistant coaches Kate Maxim and Steve Coppola ’06, both of whom are in their first seasons with the Princeton program. Maxim coached six years at Oregon State; she helped develop the Beavers into a national program by guiding the novice crews each season. Her boat finished in the Top 5 at the Pac-10 Championships each season, including a best finish of second during the 2011 season.
Coppola, a bronze medalist as part of the 2008 U.S. Olympic men’s eight, led Princeton to the 2006 Eastern Sprints/Ivy League title in heavyweight rowing.
“They are both doing a great job here,” Dauphiny said. “Kate has coached for years, but she is new to Princeton. Steve was a terrific rower here, but he is new to coaching. We have rowers who are new to rowing. Everybody is working hard together.”
The regular season will produce a very challenging schedule for a team that may not completely click until closer to the Ivy Sprints (May 19 at Cooper River). Along with its traditional Ivy League competitions, Princeton will host NCAA runner-up Michigan in the May 4 regular-season finale.
The regular season may hold more importance for Princeton than in previous seasons because of a change in postseason qualifying. As opposed to earning a spot at NCAAs through its region (which it did in every year since the inaugural championships in 1997), Princeton will be seeking the automatic berth given to the varsity eight winner at Ivy League Sprints.
If the Tigers fall short there, they will need to rely on regular-season results to earn one of the remaining at-large bids. While the Ivy League remains one of the strongest leagues in the nation, not everybody will get chosen. Thus, somebody strong from the Ivy League could be left on the outside when the 2013 NCAA Championships are held May 30 through June 1 in Indianapolis.
Dauphiny believes her squad could potentially be well suited for the NCAA Championships format (V8, 2V and V4) because of its strong depth, but she also understands that getting there will depend on the performance of her top boat.
"Every year we’re looking to improve and I think we accomplished that goal this fall with respect to how we raced the year before," Gould said. "It was definitely an experience to be racing against so many national team members as well. We had a productive Tampa trip and now that we’re back on the water, I’m looking forward to putting all of those hard winter months worth of training to good use."
Princeton will make its debut this season Saturday morning in the Class of 1987 Trophy regatta against both No. 13 Brown and No. 6 Ohio State. Princeton holds a 17-9 advantage over Brown in the Class of 1987 Trophy races, including nine wins in the last 10 years. Last season, Princeton defeated Brown by six seconds to open its third consecutive perfect Ivy League season.
From there, the Tigers won’t return to Lake Carnegie until April 27, when they will host Penn and Dartmouth for the Class of 1984 Plaque in the final race of the Ivy League season.
The Tigers will host Michigan one week later; if all goes according to plan, they’ll get another shot at the Wolverines four weeks later when the best boats in the nation meet in Indiana.
This weekend will be the only time fans can catch all four Princeton rowing teams at home. The heavyweights will make their season debut at 8 am against both Georgetown and Syracuse, while the open women will follow at 9. The men's lightweights will compete for the Fosburgh Cup at 10:40 against Georgetown, and the lightweight women will row Sunday at 8 am against Wisconsin in a showdown of the last two Eastern Sprints champions.