May 27, 2010

NCAA Championship Gets Under Way Friday

Bulldogs' Second Varsity Is Defending Champion

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GOLD RIVER, Calif. – Yale head coach Will Porter probably cracked a smile when he learned the 2010 NCAA Rowing Championships were returning to the Sacramento State Aquatic Center. The Lake Natoma course has been very kind to the Bulldogs over the years. In 2004, Yale placed second there, its best finish ever, and in 2008, the varsity eight captured its second straight NCAA title in a thrilling grand final. Yale hopes to make more history on Lake Natoma when the championship gets under way with the heats on Friday morning. The semifinals are Saturday and the grand finals are Sunday.

“Our kids really like coming to California, and we've performed well here,” Porter said. “I think they feel it's a little extra special because we have to travel so far. It's not traditionally a fast course, but it's a fun course.”

The Bulldogs enter the championships ranked fifth in the nation after winning the overall team title at the Eastern Sprints on May 16. Yale has had an individual NCAA boat title in each of the last three years. The varsity eight won back-to-back championships in 2007 and 2008, and the second varsity captured the crown last year.

All 16 teams in the championships will field two boats of eight rowers each and one boat of four rowers. The top three finishers in each heat advance to the semifinals, and the top three finishers in each semifinal qualify for the Grand Final. A point total based on the finishes of all three boats determine the NCAA champion.

Yale's varsity eight appears to be peaking at just the right time. After losing to Princeton and Virginia on Apr. 17, the Bulldogs beat Radcliffe and Brown before winning the Eastern Sprints grand final, finishing less than a second ahead of second-place Princeton.

“The varsity eight faces a big challenge,” Porter said. “They have been getting their feet back under them after winning at Sprints. Hopefully they are ready for one more push.”

Yale races Stanford, Brown, Michigan and Wisconsin in heat two at 9 a.m. PDT.

The probable lineup for the Bulldogs is Dara Dickson, Stephanie Madner, Catherine Hart, Caroline Nash, Maren McCrea, Alice Henly, Tess Gerrand, Taylor Ritzel and coxswain Mia Kanak.

Yale's second varsity, which finished third at Eastern Sprints, is in heat one at 9:30 a.m. against Princeton, Virginia, Clemson and Tennessee. Six members of the boat will be making their first appearance in the NCAAs.

“The second varsity is still at a point where they are learning every day,” Porter said. “It's important that they embrace the event and do the small things that make them fast.”

The probable lineup is Catherine McDermott, Mary Jo Toothman, Kathryn D'Andrea, Natalie King, Armine Afeyan, Kathleen O'Keefe, Allix Wilde, Eliza Hastings and coxswain Sarah Brownlee.

The varsity four, which won a silver medal at Sprints, is the last to row. The Bulldogs face Washington, UCLA, USC and Washington State at 10:30 a.m.

“Our varsity four is scrappy,” Porter said. “They are a little bit small in stature compared to our opponents but I'm hoping that can work to our advantage.”

In the boat are Amanda Grady, Alexandra Fields, Elizabeth McDermott, Mary Pat Wixted and coxswain Erica Segall.

McDermott and Wixted were part of the varsity four that finished third in the grand final at the NCAAs last year.

Yale is making its ninth straight appearance in the NCAA Championships. The Bulldogs finished third last year.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity