March 4, 2009

Spring 2009 Outlook: No. 3 Yale Sets Sights on San Francisco Bay

March 4, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - After the Charleston Women's Invitational, hosted by No. 2 College of Charleston, the Bulldogs are looking forward to a three-day training camp at St. Mary's College in Maryland, followed by the Navy Spring Women's Intersectional in Annapolis, Md., on Mar. 14-15. The team will then head south to St. Petersburg, Fla., for five days of rigorous conditioning practice in slightly warmer temperatures before ending its spring break tour back in Maryland at the St. Mary's Women's Intersectional, where the Bulldogs hope to improve on their second-place finish last year.

Women's sailing team captain junior Marla Menninger expressed the Bulldogs' anxiety and anticipation around these early season events.

"Some of the most challenging regattas for us will be the first ones of the spring season," said Menninger. "We are unable to practice right now as it is too cold out on the water, so we might be a little rusty jumping into competition without any practice, competing against other teams who have been able to practice throughout the winter."

Once the Bulldogs return from spring break training and regattas there are four more regular season regattas before the 43rd Women's New England Championship, hosted by the University of Vermont on Lake Champlain.

Senior Jane Macky is looking forward to the challenges of the upcoming season, and is especially focused on this qualifier.

"I think our toughest regatta will be our qualifiers for nationals -- mainly because this is a bit of a mind game for us that we have played in to too much in the past," said Macky. "I think we just need to work really hard at getting in to the swing of things and back into our winning game mentalities as soon as we can so that we can spend this semester capitalizing on what we already know."

As evidenced by the range of locations and conditions the women will face this season up and down the Eastern seaboard -- from the breezy, rough conditions at Navy to typically flat water and shifty light air conditions on Lake Champlain -- the Bulldogs will continue to focus on learning from every regatta and condition in order to be as versatile as possible.

Macky is optimistic about their ability to build on experience and adjust to whatever conditions they face.

"I think the things that set us apart from other women's teams are experience and depth," said Macky. "Our team is the most experienced at the moment, I believe, being one of the few women's teams that remain intact from last year -- which was a great one. We have a great mix of skills throughout our top women's skippers, ranging from light and shifty prowess to domination in breezy conditions."

Menninger is also looking forward to the depth, experience, diversity and commitment of the returning players. She, along with Macky and senior Kate Hagemann, gives the Bulldogs three returning All-Americans. The Bulldogs also have three other returnees who sailed at nationals last year: juniors Sarah Lihan and Rebecca Jackson and sophomore Elizabeth Brim.

"We have a deep team," said Menninger. "Everyone brings something different to the team, and we have created a great team dynamic. We're all deeply committed to the team and our team's success and are also very passionate about what we do, which makes for a lot of fun."

Menninger further addressed the performance pressure resulting from the team's high early-season ranking and successful fall season.

"I think the biggest challenge we will face this season will be responding to pressure," Menninger said. "We are currently ranked first in our district and third nationally. We didn't graduate anyone last year and have a returning team that nearly won nationals last year, so this year it might be difficult to live up to expectations. Yet I feel that we are up to the challenge!"

Coach Zachary Leonard '89, McNay Family Director of Yale Sailing, expressed the intense focus and work ethic that has set the tone for the Yale women sailors for almost a decade.

"The women's challenges are to compete at their highest level possible," Leonard said. "All regattas are important for learning and improving. That is our goal, improve as much as we can as fast as we can."

Watch this site for weekly previews and recaps from each regatta to track the Bulldogs' progress leading up to the qualifiers at the end of April.

Report by Jenn Hoyle '05, Yale Sports Publicity

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