A week after its first loss of the season, the women’s crew team returned to form Saturday against Yale’s archrival.

After being swept by Princeton and UVA last weekend, the No. 4 Bulldogs swept No. 20 Radcliffe (the name under which the Harvard women’s crew rows) on the Housatonic River to win Yale’s seventh straight Case Cup.

“As a team, we took a step forward in all our crews,” said head coach Will Porter.

Four out of the five pieces were not even close. Yale’s first varsity eight boat rowed a 6:01.6 against Radcliffe’s 6:19.9, a differential of 18 seconds. Both varsity fours did well, each winning by slightly over five seconds, or one boat length. The third varsity eight rowed 6:36.2 to Radcliffe’s 6:50.2.

The excitement came in the second varsity eight race. Radcliffe started out ahead, maintaining the lead throughout the first 1,500 meters. With 500 meters of the 2 km race left, Yale started gaining and caught up with Radcliffe in the last 100 meters. The final stretch was so close that each crew seemed to overtake its opponent with every stroke, until Yale crossed the finish line just a fifth of a second ahead of Radcliffe, a margin of only .032 percent of the Bulldogs’ total race time, 6:20.2. The close finish quieted the large crowd of spectators, who were unsure which boat had won.

Despite worries by rowers that the second varsity should have beaten the low-ranked Radcliffe team by more, coach Porter was optimistic about the close race.

“The second varsity race was a hard-fought win, and that will help them later in the season,” he said.

Katie D’Andrea ’13 and Eliza Hastings ’13 said the second varsity had been trying out different lineups all week, only to settle on the final one the morning of the race. They also acknowledged that it was hard to be on the second varsity boat because if you row well, you get moved up to the first varsity and replace someone on the first boat who was rowing less well.

The improvement over last week was most notable for the first varsity boat, which finished much faster than it had against Princeton, although rowers warned that comparisons among different courses are not meaningful.

“It was exciting to take advantage of the great conditions and our last home race of the season by racing well and putting a complete piece together from start to finish,” said Alice Henly ’10, who rowed on the first varsity boat. “I can’t wait to get back on the water to keep building off of our improvements this weekend.”

Maren McCrea ’10, Henly’s pair on the first varsity boat, described the bittersweet nature of the race for the seniors.

“It was also our last home race of the season, so I know for the seniors it was definitely a sentimental piece” she said. “We are a very close-knit team and class, so each race that brings us closer to the end of our Yale career is both sad and also exciting as we have an opportunity to finish off our time at Yale with a collection of great results.”

Rowers said last week’s practices made the difference between this week’s victory and last week’s defeat.

“We had some very efficient practices, which helped us to take a step in the right direction,” McCrea said.

Next Saturday the Elis face No. 5 Brown in Providence for the Nat & Anne Case Cup in the last regatta of the regular season. The Eastern Sprints begin May 16 in New Jersey, and the NCAA Championship begins May 28 in California.

“While we still have a lot of work to do and speed to gain going into the next couple of weeks, the races yesterday served as a definitive step in the right direction,” said captain Taylor Ritzel ’10, the stroke for the first varsity. “I was proud of the fight and persistence each boat demonstrated yesterday.”