In preseason NCAA Division I polls, the Yale women’s crew team was ranked third in the nation, the team’s highest ranking ever. But this unprecedented position is still somewhat unsatisfying. The Bulldogs have their sights set on the top spot in the nation.

“Being ranked high is obviously better than being ranked low,” Yale head coach Will Porter said. “But I thought we would be number one.”

The Elis, who received eight first place votes, are hoping to surpass No. 1 Brown and No. 2 Michigan this spring. Yale currently shares the third spot with Princeton. The Bulldogs’ success last fall, especially their strong finish at the Head of the Charles Regatta in October, has placed them among the top teams in the nation. Still, they aren’t taking anything for granted.

“It’s certainly encouraging to be ranked highly in the preseason polls,” Orly Friedman ’07 said. “But they’re only predictions. What really counts is the record when we start racing.”

Over spring break, while many Yalies were sunbathing in Cancun or lounging on Californian beaches, the Elis remained in New Haven, literally rowing through blizzards to prepare for the upcoming spring season. These past few weeks have marked the culmination of Porter’s “Pump Up the Volume” workout routine, which has put the Bulldogs in excellent shape.

“The long hours in the rowing tanks and the extra miles put in on the water, even in man-against-nature weather conditions, have set up the varsity team for a winning season,” Christine Geiser ’07 said. “From what I’ve heard, the workouts are much more intense this year.”

After a rewarding winter practice season, the team is looking to hone its skills and eventually exceed its preseason ranking. However, winning isn’t the only goal for the Elis.

“This winter I expected the team to train with focus and concentration, to train hard physically, and they have done that,” Porter said. “Now, we want to get every ounce of speed out of ourselves as crews, we want to win every race we enter, we want to be the best team in the country. And we want to have fun doing it.”

Both crews — varsity and freshman — are looking strong this spring. Despite the loss of a few key members due to injury, the freshman team is greatly improved. Frequent workouts with the varsity team and expert advice from new freshman coach and former Olympian Kate Maloney have helped the team increase its speed and power.

“Everyone’s really excited to see how winter training and spring break will pay off when we finally start racing other schools,” Friedman, coxswain of the freshman boat, said.

The Bulldogs’ first race is in Philadelphia on March 27 against Penn and Columbia. However, the team’s first big challenge will come in the Eastern Sprints in Camden, N.J. on May 9.

“Every race before Eastern Sprints is just practice,” Geiser said.

Although the Elis have done everything in their power to physically prepare for the season, they are also hoping something extra might push them to the top.

“A little luck always helps,” Porter said. “We stayed here over spring break so we could go to the New Haven St. Patrick’s Day parade, and that should give us plenty of good luck all season.”