March 11, 2010
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the ninth in a 10-part series on UND.com, spotlighting the 2010 Notre Dame spring sports season with both written and video previews. Today, we take a look at the six-time defending BIG EAST Conference champion Fighting Irish rowing team, which has its sights set on a return to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2007.
With six consecutive BIG EAST Conference titles in hand and the fall portion of the schedule complete, the Notre Dame rowing team and head coach Martin Stone turn their attention to the spring segment of the schedule.
Notre Dame’s goals remain clear again as the Irish shoot for a seventh straight BIG EAST crown and a return to the NCAA championship for the first time since 2007.
“I am excited about the team this season,” Stone remarks. “I like the work ethic and I like what I’ve been seeing in training. The leadership from top to bottom appears to be very strong within this team as well.”
Notre Dame’s biggest challenge entering the season is to replace a very talented 10-member senior class that was lost to graduation following the 2008-09 season. That class was made up of Lauren Buck, Christine Trezza, Erica Copeland, Mallory Glass, Elli Greybar, Danielle Leary, Bridget Leone, Katherine McMackin, Anni Nowhitney, Kelsey Otero, Laura Petnuch and Stephanie Szegedi. Szegedi, Otero, McMackin served as the coxswain for the varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four boats, respectively.
The Irish will now look to its seven-member senior class for guidance and leadership as the ’10 schedule gets underway. Andrea Archer, Emily Backer, Brittney Kelly, Rachael Louie, Braegan Padley and Casey Robinson all provide the Irish with race experience in the varsity boats from last year and during the fall season, along with the return of Sarah Keithley, who did not row last season after previously serving as the coxswain for the varsity four boat in her sophomore and junior years in ’08 and ’09.
“I think the seniors are doing a very good job of being team leaders,” Stone says. “I think that collectively as a group it is working very well. In different instances, each has stood up and taken the lead on something, but for the most part I think as a whole they’re doing a great job.”
The Irish will be tested from the outset with a very challenging schedule that opens up with a regatta against the likes of Duke and Buffalo on Sat., March 13. In all, Notre Dame will race against at least four opponents (Michigan State, Michigan, USC and Louisville) who were ranked in the final Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA)/USRowing polls for ’09, along with UCLA, who received votes in the final rankings.
“We have some guidelines to our schedule,” Stone says. “We always try and take a west coast trip and an east coast trip, and then race in the Midwest. We are fortunate that USC and UCLA invited us out to race in that meet. I think that Michigan and Michigan State will be difficult and then the day after we are going down to Indianapolis and racing again. Then the BIG EAST Championships will be difficult and the Central Regional race is always tough. I think the schedule is great and it will provide us with an opportunity to showcase our speed.
“We are going to be racing Duke and Buffalo on March 13th,” Stone adds, “and since we haven’t been out on the water yet I’d really like to see if we can translate the things that we have been working on in practice inside, out on the waters.”
Notre Dame’s rowers have been able to turn to a very knowledgeable and deep coaching staff to aide in their development during the fall season and in the off-season practice regimen. This year’s staff will see the return of Joe Schlosberg as associate head coach and Marnie Stahl as assistant coach, alongside 12th year head coach Stone, but it will also see the services of three volunteer assistant coaches helping allow for more personal development and teaching for each of the rowers.
The group of volunteer coaches includes Heather Schlosberg and Ashley Yergler, who will each be entering their second year with the program. Schlosberg will assist the varsity boats and is overseeing coxswain development, while Yergler will serve as an assistant to the novice crews. In addition to Schlosberg and Yergler, Lauren Buck will return to the Irish team after joining the staff upon completion of her rowing career in 2009. She will also be assisting the novice rowers during the season.
“This is a bigger number of coaches than we have had in the past,” Stone stated. “It just kind of worked out well in that regard. I think that they all offer a little something different and it also allows us to work more closely with all of the rowers to aide in each and every one of their developments.”
One of the main goals for this year’s Irish squad is to again secure the BIG EAST Conference title, a feat that has been accomplished six consecutive years, with the Irish finishing no worse than second since the conference began sponsoring a championship for rowing in ’01. Stone knows that capturing the conference crown is something that the team will always strive for as the time approaches.
“We haven’t really talked too much about our performance goals,” Stone remarks. “We addressed them all early in the year but pretty much right now we are just trying to make each person go as fast as she can. I think as it comes nearer and nearer we’ll talk about it more. It is an underlying thing that `hey we want to be the best in the BIG EAST.’ I think that those are goals here that are non-negotiable.”
With the mix of a talented and leadership-filled senior class and the depth within the freshmen through junior classes, this year’s squad also looks to join the hunt for a NCAA bid, a feat the Irish last accomplished during the ’07 season when they earned a 12th-place team finish.
“At Notre Dame, I think there are two goals that are always looked for. You are going to try and win the BIG EAST and also contend for a national title,” Stone remarks. “I think those are two things that, athletic department wide, are very important.”
The NCAA Championships will be held from May 28-30 in Sacramento, Calif.
— ND —