Women’s crew has a lot to live up to this season, but they also have plenty of confidence that with enough hard work and determination, the team can meet its high expectations.
The No. 6 Bulldogs, who compete in their first regatta this weekend against Columbia and University of Pennsylvania, are one of Yale’s most successful teams in recent years. Their varsity boat won the NCAA varsity race in 2010, 2008 and 2007. Although six of the nine members of last year’s varsity boat have graduated, the young team said it is still confident that Yale can be successful this year.
Women’s crew had two races last fall: the Head of the Housatonic, which they won; and the Head of the Charles, in which they placed fourth. But captain Caroline Nash ’11 said that Yale’s relatively low finish in the Head of the Charles regatta does not bode ill for the team this spring.
Both races were good showings, Nash said, and they only matter insofar as they showed the team what it needed to work on over the winter.
“We were raising the bar, getting faster, fitter,” Nash said, describing their winter training.
Nash also noted that this year the freshmen and sophomores will have to step into new roles.
Head coach Will Porter agreed with Nash that the team’s youth would be key to the team’s success this season.
“We are young, a bit immature and a bit naive in our approach,” Porter said. “They are better than they realize they are and more capable than they give themselves credit for.”
Porter emphasized that only real race experience could turn the team’s freshmen into veteran rowers. He acknowledged that as much as he would like to hurry their development, maturity only comes from experience and he said he has had to be patient.
Maddie Lips ’14 said that the transition to college level rowing was “amazing but intense.” The freshmen were expected to be an integral part of the team, and had an opportunity to contribute. Because of that pressure and opportunity, she has improved more than she would have expected, Lips said.
One factor that could be to Yale’s advantage this season is the high number of races at home, on the Housatonic River, according to Nash. Four of the team’s six races are at home this spring, compared to just two during the 2010 spring season.
“It will be beneficial to our younger rowers to get to race a lot at home,” Nash said.
Last year’s team did not seem to be hampered by its lack of home races. The team won the Eastern Sprints in May 2011, and its varsity boat won the NCAA’s varsity championship, making them the best women’s boat in the nation.
Nash added that 2010 was a great class of rowers, but that this year’s team will have its own unique rowing style.
Taylor Ritzel ’10, last year’s captain and current member of the U.S. National Team, was a “legend” for the team, according to Lips. Ritzel was a three-time All-American and was on the NCAA winning varsity boat three of her four years. Lips said that the successes of recent years was inspiring, not intimidating.
“I think the women who have passed through our boathouse in recent years have changed the intensity of the team, and that change is still very palpable for those of us who just got here,” Lips said.
It will be a long journey this season, but Yale will be competitive by the end of it, Porter said.
“This team has something to prove, whether they realize it or not,” Porter said.