Lori Dauphiny knew that her Princeton University women’s open crew faced a challenging season well before the start of preseason.
Losing some key seniors, including five stars from her 2014 varsity 8, veteran Princeton head coach Dauphiny knew that she had to work some new faces into her lineup.
But when a deep freeze hit the area, her task was made even more difficult.
“Last year was bad but this winter was worse,” said Dauphiny, who is in her 19th season as the head coach of Princeton’s open crew program.
“There was more ice on the lake; we took a trip to Rutgers for two days in March. They were kind enough to open their boathouse to us so that helped.”
The winter didn’t help Dauphiny’s effort to develop the newcomers to her program.
“One of the hardest challenges is that the freshman class is more of a project in terms of technique and efficiency in the water so not being on the lake hurt us,” said Dauphiny. “They have potential and are doing a good job.”
The team’s more experienced rowers have stepped up and are realizing their potential.
“The upperclassmen have been doing a good job, some of the kids in the 2V last year are now in the 1V,” said Dauphiny. “Everybody is working hard. This year’s senior class is driven and positive.”
Senior co-captain Faith Richardson has provided a lot of drive for the program.
“Faith is very hard working,” said Dauphiny, whose other senior co-captain is Nicki Byl. “She has a work ethic that very few have and is an example of what it takes.”
The Tiger varsity 8 took a defeat in its opener on March 28 as it fell to Brown by 7.9 seconds, coming in at 7:22.3 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Carnegie with Brown clocking a winning time of 7:14.4.
“Brown is great, they are really solid, really fast,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat did defeat Michigan by 6.6 seconds in the season opener.
“They will be a national title contender, no doubt. I tried to approach that with perspective. We lost by almost eight seconds but it is one of the best boats in the country. We have a ways to go. With Michigan, it was impressive to run with them and get a win. They were struggling with some of the same preseason issues that we had.”
A week later, Princeton posted a solid win over Columbia, posting a time of 7:12.4 to beat the Lions by 13.5 seconds.
“Columbia was a step forward, it was a good race for us,” said Dauphiny. “It was very challenging conditions and the kids handled that better.”
Last weekend, the eighth-ranked Tigers handled themselves well in a regatta against No. 4 Virginia, Harvard-Radcliffe, and Cornell. The varsity 8 placed second to Virginia, earning the Class of 1975 Cup by virtue of beating Harvard and Cornell.
“That was another step forward, it was a very gusty day and we were closer to the leaders,” said Dauphiny, whose boat posted a time of 6:56.8 with Virginia coming in at 6:54.5. Harvard-Radcliffe was at 6:57.5 in third with Cornell clocking 7:06.4 in fourth.
“We did a good job of contesting them, especially in the first half of the race. Harvard is great, we knew they were going to be tough. They were down and pulled to nearly level. Our response was good, we were able to pull away. It was good to be in a race like that, the close races are important in seeing how a crew responds to pressure.”
The Tigers will be under pressure when they head up to No. 9 Yale this weekend in the race for the Eisenberg Cup.
“This is our first away race on another team’s body of water, leaving the safety of our boat house,” said Dauphiny. “It will be interesting to see how they handle it. Yale is very tough, the races will be tough across the board.”
Dauphiny is confident that her rowers will get tougher and tougher as the season goes on.
“We want to put together a whole race, we have only been putting together pieces,” said Dauphiny.
“Everybody is a work in progress at this point; we are still mixing and matching. We are still looking to see where people fit. It takes a while to figure it out, people develop at different rates.”