UCF Rowers Look for Success Heading into Tough Schedule

March 30, 2007

After competing in its first month of spring regattas, the UCF women's rowing team is turning toward rougher water as the Knights' upcoming schedule features several perennial top-20 teams and NCAA Championship participants.

Since kicking off their season on March 3, UCF has collected an impressive list of wins. The varsity openweight squad was strong in its debut, a scrimmage against Michigan in Tampa, Fla., while the lightweight crew lost only one race to crosstown rival Rollins College at the Metro Cup.

Two weeks later, several boats went to Austin, Texas for the Longhorn Invitational and dropped only two races against Kansas State and Iowa, while they swept both Duke and host the University of Texas.

"I think with every race, we have improved and we have learned from out mistakes," said sophomore Stephanie Adams, who sits two-seat in the varsity eight. "We have been working together as a team."

UCF most recent test came on home water as the team hosted the Petrakis Cup at its Lake Pickett training facility on March 24. Knowing their surroundings gave the Knights a significant advantage as they took home the top honors in all six races and claimed the women's overall points trophy.

"It was weird seeing other teams on our lake," said junior and coxswain captain Ann Marie Rossi. "Usually we are the ones traveling, going to other team's rivers and lakes. It was nice seeing other people at our home course."

Adams added, "It was a little nerve racking, just because you have more fans and it was a little more difficult to focus. Still, having a regatta at home was really exciting. It felt different to be on our home lake facing good teams, instead of just training."

Even though the Knights enjoyed the chance to be competitive against other schools on Lake Pickett, they have also challenged themselves in their daily practices and trained harder off the water as well. The reason that fourth-year head coach Leeanne Crain and her staff have stepped up the team's training is due to the tough schedule that lies ahead.

On April 7, the lightweights travel to New Jersey to race against host Princeton, Radcliffe and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while the rest of the squad heads to Virginia to take on the host Cavaliers, Duke and Michigan State. Also on the schedule are trips to the Windermere Classic, the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship and the Aramark South/Central Regional Championship, where UCF aims to earn a bid to the NCAA Championship in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Among the teams slated to join the Knights at those regattas are Washington, Stanford, Washington State, and Crain's alma mater UCLA. All are big names in rowing, but the student-athletes are looking forward to the competition.

"Racing against those teams is definitely going to push us," said Rossi. "I know that we are pushing for a bid to the NCAA Championship and many of these teams consistently participate in that competition. I am interested to see how we compare to those other kinds of teams. Getting a few wins under our belt against them is really going to help our chance for a bid to national championship."

According to Crain, competing against the best only betters the Knights as a team. "It's always been my philosophy to race against the best competition you can schedule," she said. "The only way to reach the top is to race against the top level teams."

It is evident from the varsity eight's currently undefeated record that Crain's philosophy is working. "We were really close to those big schools last year," said Adams. "With the new training that is being done this year, it will be really exciting to see how we race against those teams this year. We were so close to beating UCLA and Washington State last season. I would really like to cross the finish line ahead of them this time."