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Fueled by Disappointing Finish at NCAAs in 2017, Tiger Open Crew Driven to Succeed This Spring

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: The Princeton University open women’s varsity eight shows its form in a recent race. The Tiger had a mixed result last Saturday, topping Yale to retain the Eisenberg Cup but falling to Iowa in the three-boat race. Princeton, now 10-1, returns to action when it heads south to face the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. on April 21. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

After rolling through the regular season last spring with an 11-0 and winning the Ivy League Championships, the Princeton University open women’s varsity eight hit a roadblock at the NCAA championships.

Failing to make the Grand Final, the Tigers took third in the Petite Final to place ninth overall, putting a damper on an otherwise superb campaign. 

The bitter taste left from that disappointment has served to give the squad’s returning rowers a little extra motivation heading into 2018.

“The team is very driven this year; there was some disappointment after the national championships, it is true,” said Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny.

“I think that has fueled them to some extent. We had a decent fall but it wasn’t as if we won everything. They knew that there was still more work to be done going into the spring season. They have really done a nice job of just staying at it.”

The squad’s veterans have set a tone of diligence. “We do have a core of seniors and they are a good group with a very good attitude and the junior class is also strong,” said Dauphiny “It is a combo of the upperclassmen leading the team.”

To better prepare for postseason competition, Princeton has beefed up its schedule, adding foes from different regions in addition to its normal Ivy League slate.

“It is really the future for women’s rowing,” said Dauphiny, whose team has already faced Michigan, Notre Dame, and Iowa this spring with Virginia, Syracuse, and Wisconsin on the horizon.

“For us to be invited to the national championship, you have to show speed within your season and not only in your conference. You also need to show that your conference is strong across the country.”

Last Saturday, the Tigers combined an Ivy race against Yale  and a matchup with Big 10 foe Iowa. Princeton topped Yale to win the Eisenberg Cup but finished second behind Iowa in suffering its first defeat of the spring.

“It was mixed feelings; I was not surprised by Iowa because I had been tracking their progress; they have raced some good teams and they have done well against them,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat clocked a time of 6:13.5 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Carnegie with Iowa posting a winning time of 6:10.8 and Yale taking third in 6:17.1.

“Most recently they raced Michigan and beat them by 13 seconds. We beat Michigan by five so I knew that they were going to be fast and they were. We lost to a very good crew, that is a good boat. It was nice to retain the Eisenberg Cup; that was important to us. Yale is also a strong, formidable crew and we knew that. It was live and learn.”

In Dauphiny’s view, her rowers will learn from the setback. “It is good to handle a loss; when you lose you can either feel sorry for yourself or you can figure out what the next step is,” said Dauphiny.

“We talked as a team that we are only halfway through our season so we have time to grow and learn from the lessons this weekend. I think race strategy is one; also learning how to be down and come from behind and learning how to race multiple boats.”

With Princeton, now 10-1, heading south to face the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. on April 21, Dauphiny will be looking for that growth.

“It is going to be very important to handle the challenges of a new course that we have never been on before,” said Dauphiny.

“We need to get a little more race savvy. This is a dual race so it has its own element. We can improve upon some of the mistakes that we made last weekend. Each boat has different things that they are working on; each boat has different parts of the race that they wanted to focus on. It can make us stronger and it can make us more aware of the weaknesses that we have.”

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