The Yale Women’s Crew faced high expectations coming into the spring season as the third-ranked team in the country. So far, they have lived up to the hype. On Saturday, the Bulldogs defeated Pennsylvania and Columbia, sweeping all four events on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

The Elis won the Varsity Eight race with a time of 6:29.0, topping Penn by almost seven seconds. The Varsity Four “A” crew won their race, clocking in at 7:36.4. The Varsity Four “B” crew finished third with a time of 7:59.3.

“I was pleased with the way we rowed,” Yale head coach Will Porter said. “It is very early in the season and we did what we wanted to do. All of our crews had races that they can build on. There are many battles ahead of us and we just want to work week by week to improve our speed.”

In the wake of victories by the varsity boats, the Freshman Eight got off to a roaring start as well. The Novice team won its first event of the year, finishing nine seconds ahead of the Quakers with a time of 6:56.8.

“It was a solid, encouraging race,” coxswain Orly Friedman ’07 said. “It was definitely fun to get out there on the water, and it was an excellent way to start the season.”

After a winter of vigorous practice and a fast start to the spring season, the Bulldogs are looking to take the rowing world by storm.

Despite their success on Saturday, the Elis believe that Saturday’s performance was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg and that they can improve with more practice.

“The racing conditions on the Schuylkill were nice and I think it was a good start to the season,” Ashley Brzozowicz ’04 said. “However, each one of our boats can still find a lot more speed and it’s important for us to keep working in order to achieve our goals.”

The Bulldogs entered the season behind only Michigan and Brown in the NCAA polls. Yale has yet to face either team head-to-head, and will not face top-ranked Michigan until the last race of the season. So while this weekend’s victories were satisfying, the Elis have yet to face their biggest challenge.

“Penn and Columbia are both well coached teams but they are young,” Porter said. “They have many freshmen in leadership positions. I expect our races to get more challenging as the season goes on and every team in the country picks up speed. We’re far from our top speed but we are right on track to be really cooking when we need to be.”

The Bulldogs face a grueling schedule over the next two months. Other than one home race on April 24th, the team will be on the road every weekend until June. But despite being away from home, Porter does not foresee any problems.

“This team is very easy to coach,” Porter said. “They work hard and do anything I ask of them. I can tell how hungry they are for success every day in practice. We just need to continue to be patient and let the speed come to us.

The Elis’ next race will be this weekend in Ithaca, New York, against Cornell and Syracuse.