Repeated success is often difficult to live up to, but for women's crew, it has become a permanent part of the program. As a perennial contender for both the Ivy and national crowns, Princeton once again enters the season with an experienced roster and a positive outlook.
Looking to improve on last year's 12-1 record, including a victory at Eastern Sprints and a second place performance at the NCAA championships, the heavyweight squad opens its season Saturday against Brown on Lake Carnegie.
Consistent rivals on the water, the Tigers and the Bears will get an early opportunity to test their mettle and get a leg up on the competition. With such an important race early in the season, the results could set the tone for the remainder of the spring.
Competing against traditionally strong Ivy teams, Princeton hopes to regain the form of 1993, 1994 and 1995 when it claimed both league and national titles. The Tigers are expected to receive strong competition from defending national champion Washington, as well as Virginia and Brown, all of which return a number of proven rowers.
With Princeton once again expected to rise to the top of the collegiate rowing circle, the only questions surround what to expect from the first ever lightweight team.
"It's a league of unknowns," head coach Heather Smith said. "With all the tough competition, it's difficult to know what's going to happen."
The United States Rowing Association evidently expects big things from the Tigers, however, ranking them second behind Radcliffe in its preseason poll.
"It's a good place to start," Smith said, "but our goal is to dethrone Radcliffe."
The Tigers look to do so behind the experience of upperclass veterans of the former women's open team. Solid leadership from junior captain Halle Markus and junior Tamara Kavander will help the Princeton lightweights in spring competition.
The lightweight women's team opens its regular season against Radcliffe April 11 in Ithaca, N.Y., but is looking forward to the opportunity of racing in the San Diego Crew Classic in San Diego, Calif., April 4 and 5.
"The regatta should provide us with an opportunity to see how far along we are at an early point in the season," Smith said. "Most of our key opponents will be there, including Villanova, Radcliffe and Wisconsin."
'Establish a tradition'
"The rowers are excited about San Diego and the rest of the season," Smith added. "It is the beginning of something new where they have the opportunity to establish a tradition for the team."
If things go according to plan this season, women's lightweight crew will begin to build a legacy equally as strong as its heavyweight counterparts.
"Everyone is pumped and confident," said freshman heavyweight rower Ann Ellis. "We're all just ready to get out on the water."
This is surely a sentiment echoed by all Princeton rowers.