Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NCAA Rowing Spring 2013 Preview: The RowingRelated Top 20



1. California 
Cal is our favorite to win the NCAA team championship in 2013. Their top-end talent in the varsity eight and team depth we expect will be too great for any other team in the country to handle. Dave O'Neill is a very good coach and has a clear understanding of what it takes to construct and manage a championship level team. Every year they are in the hunt, but they have not won since they won back to back team titles in 2005 and 2006. This year's team will be led by Kara Kohler who is back for her junior year after taking the 2012 season off to win an Olympic bronze medal in the W4x for the U.S. The Bears will also feature top international athletes Papa Hipango from New Zealand, Rosie Popa from Australia (though she has American citizenship and has raced at the U23 world championships for the U.S.), German junior national team member Charlotte Siering, and Norwegian junior national teamer Ingvild Ronningen. These international athletes will be supported by Americans Kendall ChaseAggie NowinskiMaddie Wolf and Charlotte Passot who were all on the U.S. junior national team prior to coming to Cal, as well as senior leader & co-captain Erica Rippe (shown in the video above). The Bears will also enjoy the contribution of Australian junior national team member Jacinta Edmunds, who arrived in Berkeley in January in time for the spring semester and to help them with their NCAA title bid.

2. Washington
We are predicting fellow Pac-12 Conference member and traditional rival University of Washington to finish 2nd at this year's NCAA Championships. Bob Ernst does not like losing and has been working hard to get the UW women back on top ever since he returned to coaching the Husky women (after a number of very successful years spent coaching the Husky men). It is safe to say Ernst's efforts on the recruiting trail have paid off. This team is loaded with international talent. He will have a varsity eight chock full of international talent featuring Kiwi freshman Grace Spoors, Australian U23 world medalist Amy Fowler, Kiwi national teamers Camilla Anderson and Kirstyn Goodger, British national teamers Fi Gammond and Ruth Whyman, German junior national team rower Marie Strohmayer, Marissa Kump (Canadian JNT), and American U23 world champ Madison Culp. The Huskies will also benefit from the services of recent additions Patricia Obee (2012 Olympian in the Canadian LW2x) and Australian junior national teamer Natasha Gay, who arrived in Seattle in January to begin as a freshman.

3. Virginia
Like Cal and UW, 2012 NCAA champion Virginia will also be loaded both with top-end talent. And, despite having lost the stern pair of their varsity eight from 2012, they will still return a lot of depth. However, we don't think they will have quite the depth to defend their NCAA title and we are picking them to finish third as a team in 2013. They will be led by British national team standout Sarah Cowburn, American U23 world champ Kristine O'Brien, British JNT member Fi Schlesinger, Canadian U23 world champion Susanne Grainger, and former U.S. JNT members Chandler Lally, Hemingway Benton, Brandy Herald, Elle Murray, Hannah Solis-Cohen, Nina Vascotto, Lizzy Youngling, and Carli Goldberg, as well as former Canadian JNT member Catherine Multari. The Cavaliers will likely be without the services of standout freshman Holly Nixon, who won a silver medal in the single at the 2011 World Rowing Junior Championships but who suffered an injury last fall—though on the other side they've gained German transfer Constanze Duell, who has medaled at the U23 worlds. The biggest loss from last year's team might be assistant coach Steve Pritzker who is now the head coach of the women's program at the University of Iowa.

4. Princeton
We are picking Princeton to finish fourth again this year. Lori Dauphiny is one of the best coaches in the country and this year she will prove why. She won't have the most talented roster, but she does have plenty of good athletes, great facilities, lots of tradition and a great system in place. She always has her athletes ready to compete and we do not expect 2013 to be any exception. The Tigers will be led by Canadian talent Annaliese Ionson along with Americans Heidi Robbins, Gabby Cole, Molly Hamrick, Nicole Bielawski and Erin and Kelsey Reelick.

5. Stanford
After struggling in 2012, we expect Stanford to be back in the top five in 2013. This year's squad is bolstered by the return of American Lindsay Meyer and Kiwi Anna Dawson, who took last year off in an attempt to make their respective countries' Olympic teams. This elite talent will be supported by former JNT members Christina Bax, Caitlin Byrnes, Alix Chrumka, Nancy Miles, Rebeca Felix and Kristy Wentzel and U23 national team member Daphne Martschenko. Not usually known for their depth, we expect that to be a strength for this year's Cardinal squad that will also see key contributions from Ali Fauci, Juliana Kapjian-Pitt, Claire Grover and Amanda Lorei. An especially strong freshman class that includes Swedish import Filippa Karrfelt, and Americans Katie Toothman, McKayla Taaffe, Simone Jacobs, Meredith Fischer and Taylor Burdge will also help their team depth.

6. USC
7. Ohio State
8. Harvard
9. UCLA
10. Yale
11. Wisconsin
12. Brown
13. Michigan
14. Washington State
15. Syracuse
16. Michigan State
17. Clemson
18. Cornell
19. Notre Dame
20. Dartmouth

A team to watch, and our pick for No. 15, is Syracuse. The Orange are poised for a great season, with Olympic silver medalist Natalie Mastracci in the mix, and the program has been building momentum under Justin Moore for the last two seasons. We're looking for them to win a Big East title this year, and earn an automatic qualifier to the new-look 22-team NCAA Championships. To get there, however, the Orange will face serious competition in Notre Dame, as the Irish have won the Big East title nine straight times (last year these two teams finished one-two, with the Irish coming out on top in the team point 111-97).

Is there a rising tide in NCAA Rowing? It certainly seems that way—the level has greatly increased every year, and this spring looks to be no exception.

-RR

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