On Saturday, the women’s crew team was introduced to a virtually foreign word: “defeat.” Despite the team’s season-long record of success, its winning streak has finally run out.

Travelling down to Princeton this weekend, the Elis were ready to test themselves against the team that Yale head coach Will Porter predicted would take the Ivy Championship. Although the women were defeated in all five of their races against Virginia and Princeton, they came in second in four — losing to Princeton in three. Yale finished second in the day’s competition over Virginia, giving up the Eisenberg Cup to the No. 1 Tigers.

“We knew going in that it would be a challenging race,” varsity eight three seat Jennifer Hansen ’07 said. “Princeton always puts up a fast race.”

The largest margin of loss was 13.1 seconds in the novice eight, in which the team pulled a time of 6:53.3. The closest races of the day were the second varsity eight — in which the Bulldogs finished 4.1 seconds behind Virginia — and varsity four, where they finished 5.7 behind Princeton. With a time of 6:24.2, the varsity eight gave up 9.1 seconds to Princeton.

Although the loss may have been unexpected for Bulldogs fans across the crew nation, varsity eight five seat Rachel Jeffers ’07 said the team knows it can always be faster.

“This is not a step back,” Hansen said. “Win or lose, it’s always a learning experience.”

Jeffers said Princeton is historically fast at the line, and there was no exception in the varsity eight race. In the first 20-30 stokes, the Tigers established a lead that they were able to maintain despite the Elis’ attempts to push through, she said. By 500 meters into the race, Princeton had achieved a boat’s length ahead of Yale, and the women were unable to recover.

With competition rowing neck and neck, the rowers and coxswains alike must focus on their individual and collective performances, third varsity coxswain Berkley Adrio ’09 said.

“I try to call an aggressive race, and stick to the race plan while responding to the other crews,” she said of her own performance.

While the coxswains manage the boats themselves, the rowers work blindly, rowing with their backs to the finish line.

“We try not to get freaked out [when passed by another crew],” Hansen said. “We just do what we normally do and try not to let it faze us. … We did a good job of that.”

Under ideal rowing conditions, racing Princeton’s manageable course gave the team a chance to focus on every aspect of its row, Hansen said.

“We took a lot from this race, and we can definitely see our potential,” she said.

After the fourth regatta of the spring season, the Elis will not be changing their preparation methods, Jeffers said. Even though the race against Princeton was an important measuring stick for its performance, the team did not do anything differently from before.

“We’re always pushing for speed,” she said. “In every race we’re trying to have a perfect race.”

Jeffers said the races are getting tighter as the team gets closer to the Eastern Sprints. The most important piece of information gleaned from Saturday is an understanding of Princeton’s racing style — they’re the team to beat.