The tenth-ranked Princeton open women’s rowing team returned to campus Saturday evening after a wild 36 hours that featured the Tigers’ only away race of the season. Princeton traveled to race No. 9 Virginia on Lake Monticello in Palmyra, Va. They came out of the weekend with an impressive win in the First Varsity Eight, who moved to 10–1 on the season.
The First Varsity Eight featured three sophomores, four juniors, and two seniors for the second consecutive weekend. The senior pair of coxswain Kate Elfers and two-seat Melissa Curtis were “amped” and “hyped” to face an always-speedy Virginia team in their last away race.
After a wobbly first five strokes, the Princeton varsity established their strong base speed and threw the first punch in what was shaping up to be a tight race. Staying long and strong, the varsity moved away from Virginia as the race progressed, eventually gaining open water and finishing nine seconds before their competitors. The crew felt like they had thrown down their most complete race yet, coming away with a dominating win against a talented UVA boat.
“We have to just keep getting faster,“ sophomore seven-seat Hadley Irwin said.
Princeton knows they’ll only face faster boats from now until the final race of the year. The Tigers will keep that thought in the back of their minds this week as they train on Lake Carnegie, working towards their goal of winning a third consecutive Ivy League championship.
Head Coach Lori Dauphiny was pleased to have her team race Virginia this season. The Cavaliers finished 11th at the NCAA Championship last May, just one place behind Princeton, so a close race was expected. Before hitting the water, Dauphiny noted to her rowers the historical significance of the day, highlighting the fact that this was Princeton’s first time ever racing in the state of Virginia and its first head-to-head regular season meeting with UVa.
In the other boats, Princeton was challenged by a traditionally deep Virginia squad. The closest margin of the day came in the Second Varsity Four, where Princeton’s lineup that featured four members of the Class of 2021 finished second by only three seconds.
The Second Varsity Eight was outpaced by Virginia, who has proven to be one of the fastest boats in its class across the nation this season. Sophomore Erin Gray stroked the boat and reflected on the race as a “great learning experience.” She mentioned that the boat had “made some strides throughout the week to prepare for the race” and said that the rowers were especially pleased by their strong start to the race.
“The end of the piece could have been stronger and we will continue to work on our fitness to gain some seconds back,” Gray added.
This weekend, Princeton will face more strong competitors from outside the Ivy League: No. 13 Wisconsin and Syracuse. The Tigers will also celebrate Senior Day on Lake Carnegie for their final home race of the season. The Second Varsity Eight currently features five senior rowers, so there is no doubt that crew will be fired up following their row at Virginia. Their underclassman boat-mate Gray said, “I am excited for Senior Day this weekend especially because the majority of the seniors on our team are in this boat (the 2V8+). I am honored to have opportunities to race with women who have so much experience.” Across the board, the open women hope to honor their seniors with wins this weekend.