April 19, 2023

PU Women’s Open Crew Varsity 8 Off to Hot Start, Facing Big Test as it Hosts Texas, Yale this Saturday

OPENING STATEMENT: The Princeton University women’s open crew varsity 8 churns through the water in a race earlier this year. The Tiger top boat defeated Virginia and Columbia at the Ivy Invite on Lake Carnegie last Saturday to remained undefeated this spring. In upcoming action, the Tigers, now 6-0 and ranked fourth nationally, host No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Yale on April 22. (Photo by Ed Hewitt/Row2K, provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Coming into this spring, Lori Dauphiny wasn’t sure what to expect from her Princeton University women’s open crew.

Although Princeton produced a stellar 2022 campaign which saw it finish third in the team standings at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1997 as the varsity 4 took first at the regatta and the first varsity 8 placed third, things didn’t go smoothly last autumn.

“Our fall was not our strongest, everyone knows that every year is a new year,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny. “The little hiccup of the fall not being as strong as we had hoped for it to be, but it possibly did some good things too. I think it made people recognize that we have some work ahead. I think that it put some concern in people’s minds, “Oh, are we going to be able to do this.’”

Putting in that work, the Tigers have done some good things so far this spring as they have started 6-0. The Tiger varsity 8 opened the season by topping Brown and Rhode Island on March 25. Two weeks later, the top boat defeated Harvard-Radcliffe and Cornell in racing on the Charles River
in Boston. Last Saturday, the varsity 8 topped Virginia and Columbia at the Ivy Invitational on Lake Carnegie.

“The start of our season being strong has been very helpful,” said Dauphiny. “There is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about what is to come. There was some doubt as to know what the team is capable of, and we are working on that.”

In Dauphiny’s view, the win over Harvard-Radcliffe and Cornell was key for the top boat and the whole program as the varsity 4 and second varsity 8 also posted wins.

“I thought it was great,” said Dauphiny, reflecting on the performance which saw Princeton clock a winning time of 6:35.5 with Harvard Radcliffe taking second in 6:47.4 and Cornell coming in at 7:14.6 to finish third.

“We had Brown on our home course in the opener and that is always tricky. I think we had overall strong results, but it was a little bit mixed with the 2V loss. Boston was a real step up for us because we hadn’t raced away yet during the season.”

Last weekend, hosting the Ivy Invitational gave Princeton and the league’s other boats the chance to step
up against some national competition.

“The Ivy coaches got together, knowing the way to get to the NCAA championships is to make sure that you are racing across conferences,” said Dauphiny of the regatta which drew Oregon State, Rutgers, USC, and Virginia. “The main objective was to have some good racing and to get crews from across the country so there is more cross referencing. Our league races are important but our races outside of the league are just as critical now.”

Racing well, the Tiger varsity 8 came in at 6:12.2 to post a 4.1-second victory over No. 9 Virginia (6:16.3) and a 17.5-second decision over Columbia (6:29.7). The varsity 4 also won its heat, clocking a time of 7:07.19 with Virginia taking second in 7:10.19 and Columbia coming in third at 7:32.0. The 2V won its race, coming in at 6:29.6 as Virginia was next in 6:32.3 and Columbia paced third in 6:59.1.

“I was pleased with both the varsity 8 and the varsity 4,” said Dauphiny. “I thought the racing on Saturday morning was great for the 1V. For the 2V, it was a close race; they stayed composed and that was great for the boat because they had stumbled earlier in the season. It was a highlight for me in the racing. I thought the V4 also did an outstanding job in pressing against a large, strong program in Virginia and Columbia.”

Dauphiny is confident that her boats will get stronger and stronger as the spring unfolds.

“The varsity 8 still has a lot to learn. I think their strength is that they are constantly improving,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat is now ranked fourth nationally. “I anticipate that continuing to happen, fingers crossed. I am very proud of the depth. The 2V is making progress. On the V4, there are three from last year’s boat. They have actually been instrumental in making all boats faster. The kids are still moving, we have a pretty good sense of things, but the boatings are not set yet. It is still too early. Everyone is helping the speed of the boats.”

The program’s seniors have played a key role in getting their teammates up to speed.

“I always like to point out the seniors; Hannah Diaz is a senior and she is coxing that varsity 8,” said Dauphiny.

“Camille Vandermeer and Lydia Rosen are in that varsity 8, so there are three seniors in there. They are really leading the team. Natasha Neitzell is the other one, a senior who has been racing in that 4 as well.”

With Princeton hosting No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Yale this Saturday, Dauphiny is looking for some more good racing from her rowers.

“We want to continue to make progress in all areas of the race, it is still early,” said Dauphiny. “We are looking to see if we can get faster from last weekend, and I think more consistent. The group can be fairly up and down; we need to be more consistent in our performance throughout the week from practice to practice and racing.”