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Youthful Lightweights Carry Big Goals Into Season, Open With Navy Saturday

Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications                                                                      Release: 03/22/2013
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Courtesy: Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak
Princeton opens its 2013 season Saturday morning against Navy for the Joseph Murtaugh Cup.
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  Murtaugh Cup Schedule
10 am Third Varsity
10:20 First Freshman
10:40 Second Varsity
11 am First Varsity

As if coaching the lightweight rowing team at his alma mater didn’t give Marty Crotty enough to think about, a rule change this season has  brought forth a whole new set of questions to ponder.

That may not be a bad thing, though, because it has opened the door for the fourth-year head coach to take full advantage of his underclassman arsenal. And we’re not just talking about the sophomores anymore.

The Class of 2015 comes into the season off a 6-2 record as a freshman eight and an impressive run to the silver medal at the Eastern final. That group was going to be varsity eligible regardless, but new rules now allow the freshman class to compete in varsity competitions as well. And Crotty believes that this is a deep, strong group of newcomers.

“There are a few guys involved in the selection process and are operating at a varsity fitness level,” Crotty said. “We could have a couple in the varsity eight, but the rest will stay with the freshman eight. I always have interest in being the best overall team in the Ivy League and winning the Jope Cup, and the freshman eight plays a part in that.”

That group, as well as a set of current sophomores who have been extremely impressive this offseason (including a victory in the Class Day competition last fall), could give the program one of its most youthful lineups in several years.

“Both in their training and on the water, we have a strand of sophomores who are getting it done,” Crotty said.

While Crotty and freshman coach Mike Lombardi will be key leaders for a youthful program, there are also several upperclassmen who are ready to wipe the sour taste from last year’s disappointing finish at the IRA Championships.

Atop that list is senior captain Tyler Nase, whom many see as a perfect fit for this group.

“He leads by his actions, which I think is the best kind of leader,” Crotty said. “He treats the young guys like adults, not teenagers. He shows them the way we conduct our business. In training, he wants them to give him their best shot, and he gives them his best. He has their respect, but he has given equal respect.”

Nase was part of a varsity eight that experienced both the ups and downs of a 2012 season. The Tigers knocked off defending national champion Yale in the Sprints varsity eight final and took second in the Jope Cup, but they followed with a sixth-place finish at the IRA national championships.

“As a coach, you have to learn from a miserable performance,” Crotty said. “We tried to learn from it. Everything that built up to it, you wouldn’t have predicted it. You just want to compete to your potential on a stage like that.”

Princeton has done that several times over the last five years, including back-to-back national championships in 2009 and 2010. And there are reasons to believe this squad can do it as well. The Tigers were the second collegiate finisher at the Head of the Charles last fall, and Crotty believed they trained to their full potential through much of the offseason, including a training trip to Tampa when technique was a major focus.

The schedule, which opens Saturday morning at home against Navy for the Joe Murtaugh Cup, is as daunting as ever. Harvard figures to be the preseason favorite after winning nationals last season and topping the field at the Head of the Charles.

“I love our schedule,” Crotty said. “We get tested every week.”

How Princeton responds to the early tests will tell plenty about his young squad. But it will be the tests at the end that will ultimately reveal the ability of this team to maximize its potential when it matters most.

Princeton currently has the Murtaugh Cup after its victory over the Midshipmen last spring, a win of 5.3 seconds in Annapolis.

Navy won three of the five races during the 2012 season opener, though Princeton did grab a freshman victory over the Midshipmen last season as well.

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