The women’s rowing team inched one step closer to the NCAA tournament after a strong showing at the University of Virginia Invitational over the weekend. The No. 14 Red swept No. 18 Clemson, Penn and University of San Diego on Saturday, before achieving mixed results against No. 1 UVA and No. 19 Minnesota on Sunday.
Cornell defeated Ivy League foe Penn in all five events Saturday morning, before picking up another five victories against Clemson and USD that afternoon. The varsity eight race against Penn was the tightest of the day, yet Cornell came out on top by a hefty 4.3 seconds. According to senior Anna Psiaki, the Red is thrilled with its performance.
“Against Penn, our mindset was to go out there and really crush them,” Psiaki said. “They’re a team that we feel like we’re faster than and we wanted to prove that ... Against Clemson, it was a different story. We wanted to prove that we deserved to be ranked higher than them.”
The Red has a strong history against unranked Ivy League team Penn, most recently defeating the Quakers in last season’s Raritan Cup. Senior captain Margaret Cook said that racing Penn first boosted the squad’s confidence for the whole weekend.
“Our first race on Saturday morning was against a team we were familiar with and we’d had a little success against in the past,” she said. “We knew we could beat them and after that it was a lot of teams we hadn’t raced before.”
Sunday brought tougher competition in the form of Minnesota and top-ranked UVA. Four of Cornell boats came in second to Virginia, while the second varsity eight placed in third. Senior captain Margaret Cook said the Red entered Sunday with nothing to lose.
“Every boat had a no-regrets mentality,” she said. “No matter what the end result was, if we went the best speed we possibly could, we were going to be proud of ourselves.”
Psiaki echoed Cook’s sentiments, adding that the team’s determination is something that makes it special.
“Every boat has a lot of fire and a lot of determination,” she said “Even when we are down off the start of the race, we’ll walk back. That’s something special about our team.”
The first varsity eight finished 12.7 seconds behind the UVA Cavaliers, while the second varsity eight a mere 3.7 seconds back. The first and second varsity four trailed by 3.3 and 18.1 seconds, respectively. According to senior captain Steph Lohberg, the team is content with its performance against UVA and Minnesota.
“Those were unchartered waters racing UVA,” she said. “A lot of the boats went above and beyond what some people might have expected from us.”
According to the seniors, this past weekend was a major boon for the team’s chances at making the NCAA tournament. Despite a strong season in 2011, the team narrowly missed selection for last year’s tournament. According to Lohberg, the Red’s success in Virginia will hopefully improve its chances of invitation to the tournament.
“The races from this morning were definitely pivotal in the NCAA system,” she said. “Coming so close to Virginia was definitely really important to prove ourselves as a team and show that we can be a competitive crew.”
Psiaki said she also hopes the squad will continue to build upon this weekend’s performance. Cornell will face Columbia and Brown at home at Cayuga Inlet next weekend, before taking on Dartmouth away on April 28.
“I think that this weekend was a momentum-builder,” Psiaki said. “Most of the teams we raced were ranked below us, so it confirmed that we definitely should be ranked 14th or higher. It showed that we are a strong program.”