On Saturday, the women’s Varsity Eight suffered its first defeat of the season at the hands of No. 1 Princeton. Still, the Elis took two of the three events that count toward NCAA standings as the second Varsity boat and the Varsity Four claimed victories.

The Bulldogs’ Varsity Eight finished with a time of 6:17.8, barely three seconds behind Princeton’s 6:14.4. A strong tail current helped both crews to break the old course record. The Bulldogs won the second Varsity Eight race, edging Princeton’s 6:34.0 with a time of 6:31.2. The Elis took the Varsity Four with a time of 7:25.7, topping Princeton’s 7:31.2. The Varsity Four B team clocked in at 7:58.6. The Novice boat lost to Princeton’s freshman boats. The Elis finished with a time of 7:06.9, behind the Tigers’ 6:37.8 and 7:04.1.

The top-ranked Tigers represented the Bulldogs’ biggest challenge of the season thus far. Princeton has always been a fierce opponent against Yale’s crews, and this year was no exception.

“The Princeton Varsity and Junior Varsity boats were the toughest competitors we have had so far this season,” Jane Moore ’06 said. “Our teams’ rivalry is very, very strong, and we are always pushed against them, this time was no different.”

Captain Litsy Witkowski ’04 said the Elis need to speed up their starts in order to improve their overall speed.

“The Varsity proved that we have effective base speed and aggressive moves,” Witkowski said. “But we were not fast enough out of the blocks. Princeton got about a boat length on us in the first 500 meters of the race, which meant that we were racing from behind for the remaining 1500 meters, something which is very difficult to do.”

Yale head coach Will Porter was encouraged by the Bulldogs’ effort despite the first Varsity Eight’s loss. Instead of dwelling on mistakes, he focused on the positives of Saturday’s races.

“As a team we raced well against Princeton,” Porter said. “We beat them in two out of three NCAA events. They took the big race, but not by much. We don’t like losing to anyone, and I expect the Varsity will be very committed over the next three weeks to do whatever it takes to get faster.”

After a strong showing last fall and a vigorous winter of training, the Elis opened the season tied with Princeton for third in the preseason NCAA polls. Following Saturday’s races, Princeton gained the top spot and the Bulldogs moved to number four. The last five weeks of the season will determine whether or not the Elis realize their dream of winning an NCAA championship this year.

“Our racing schedule for the last five weeks of the season is by far the hardest in the country, no question,” Porter said. “We race the [top three] ranked crews nationally and then we go to the Eastern Sprints. Then, if we are still standing, we go to the NCAAs.”

Instead of viewing their upcoming races with dread, the Elis are hoping that the tough competition will push them to greater heights.

“We have two very fast crews to face in our next two races which we will capitalize on to make us faster,” Witkowski said.

Next weekend, the Bulldogs return to Connecticut to host No. 3 Radcliffe. Saturday’s regatta will be the Elis’ first and last home game of the season.