April 19, 2017

No. 6 PU Open Crew Excited by 7-0 Start But Has Plenty of Room for Improvement

OPEN THROTTLE: Members of the Princeton University women’s open crew varsity 8 power through the water in a race earlier this season. Last Saturday, Princeton’s top boat edged Yale to win the Eisenberg Cup. The sixth-ranked Tigers, now 7-0, row at Dartmouth on April 22. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

It didn’t take long for the Princeton University women’s open crew varsity 8 to make a statement this spring.

Opening the season by hosting nemesis Brown and Michigan State in late March, the Tigers posted an impressive victory covering the 2,000-meter course on Lake Carnegie in 6:28.5 with the Bears taking second in 6:30.9 and the Spartans coming in third at 6:31.5. 

Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny was heartened by the opening day triumph.

“Brown is always very competitive; they come prepared,” said Dauphiny. “It was a great way to start the season and we were excited by the result.”

Building on that start, Princeton’s top boat defeated Columbia and Clemson on April 1 and then cruised past Harvard and Cornell a week later to win the Class of 1975 Cup. Last Saturday, the sixth-ranked Tigers held off a late surge by No. 8 and previously undefeated Yale to win the Eisenberg Cup and improve to 7-0.

“I think we are making progress step by step, which is good,” said Dauphiny. “We are really developing through the year.”

Dauphiny credits senior co-captains Catherine Babiec and Georgie Howe with helping to spark that development.

“They have been really leading by example from the early fall and I think that their message is a positive one for the team,” said Dauphiny.

“They want to carry some of the momentum that we built last year—the momentum being good vibes and go fast. We are a positive team. We will have our setbacks but they are always striving forward.”

The positive approach exuded by Babiec and Howe has rubbed off on the program’s younger rowers.

“I think the sophomore class has showed nice progress from last year,” said Dauphiny.

“Sophomore year is a tough year at Princeton; you take more classes and it is not all new like it was your freshman year. I feel that the sophomore class has really been tested and has come out on top.”

In beating Yale last Saturday on the Housatonic River in New Haven, Conn., Princeton passed a serious test. The varsity 8 led at the 1,500-meter mark and withstood a strong move by the Bulldogs down the stretch to win the race by 1.2 seconds.

“Yale did a really nice job in that last 500, it was their home course which is nice because you know where you are; when you are in foreign water, you don’t really know the landmarks,” said Dauphiny.

“We had the lead and the upper hand at that point and they ate up half a boat length there, one seat, two seats, three seats and four seats. The Princeton varsity 8 could have imploded. Instead, they kept their heads on their shoulders and that was good. They just kept at it and they didn’t let the other crew rattle them. I think that definitely shows the maturity; it also shows that we need to make some improvements.”

Dauphiny is looking for her top boat to be sharper from start to finish.

“We need to work on certain aspects of our racing; we are not great at shifting cadence and being effective at the new cadence,” explained Dauphiny.

“That is something we are continuing to work on. We are just coming to it now in the season. Prior to that, we were figuring out other issues, like starts. We are moving on to examining our race plan more carefully and fine-tuning some of those points that we haven’t really been able to work on.”

While there are things to clean up technically, Dauphiny has no qualms with her squad’s overall competitive approach.

“I am very proud of the whole team,” said Dauphiny. “Last weekend was challenging for us and I feel like the team handled it with maturity and a positive attitude. Overall it is a good team spirit and enthusiasm. It is a great way to start the season and now we are in the middle of the season.”

With Princeton heading north this weekend to row at Dartmouth on April 22, Dauphiny knows her rowers can’t rest on their laurels.

“Undefeated doesn’t mean anything at this point because the season is at a time when all teams are developing, not just us,” said Dauphiny.

“I am well aware from our upset last year [winning the Ivy League regatta grand final after losing to Brown in the season opener] and getting the upper hand. That can happen at any championship.”