What's rowing on?

By The Beacon | March 6, 2012 9:00pm

The women’s rowing team looks to make its inaugural year a success

Rowing Coach Bill Zack (The Beacon)

By Jason Hortsch, Staff Writer -- hortsch12@up.edu

Looking to make a splash in its first year as a fully fledged Division 1 program, the women's rowing team will open the spring portion of its season with a regatta against Lewis and Clark on March 17.

Having not been in a competition since late October, the team is thrilled to get back on the water in a competitive setting. With such a long break between matches, Head Coach Bill Zack sympathizes with his players about the monotony of practice.

"The NCAA rules that regulate the length of our season meant that the first four weeks of the semester, we couldn't row on the water," Zack said. "I think that dragged from their perspective a bit."

During this early part of the semester, senior and co-captain Sarah Ryan was proud that the team was able to stay focused, even when just training indoors with rowing machines.

"There is a lot of personal accountability," Ryan said. "You can't really lie to yourself because the numbers are right there on the machine."

Freshman Ellie Ficco, one of the team's rising young members, noted how the lack of regattas keeps the anticipation high.

"With rowing, we only have about five races a season, so I'm really excited to just go out and race," Ficco said. "It'll be nice to see what the other teams and their competition is like."

With the regatta against Lewis and Clark being more of a scrimmage, Zack is looking forward to giving his team a chance to iron out any issues before invitationals start.

"We're going to do a series of four or five 1,000 meter races, which gives you an opportunity to switch lineups from one race to the next, or try different race strategies," Zack said. "That will be a valuable learning experience for the team, to figure out what works best for them."

When discussing the team's prospects at the beginning of the year, Zack said one of the main goals for the season was fielding enough athletes for a full team. Thanks to an influx of new team members after winter break, this goal will easily be met.

"Not only have we gotten more people on the team, but I would say three or four women who will be on our travel squad for the WCC Championships will be people who just started in January," Zack said.

Ficco pointed out that having greater numbers has been especially valuable for high-quality practices.

"A lot of sophomores and juniors joined, so it lets us get more boats out there during practice," Ficco said.

With the team so new, Ryan, who was on University of Washington's rowing team before transferring to UP, has had to fill the team's leadership shoes evidenced by her co-captainship.

"At UW, I was very much in the middle of the pack and definitely not one of the stars of the team," Ryan said. "Here I've kind of done a 180 because I'm the only one on the team with collegiate experience, so I've been looked to for a lot of leadership."

Despite the youth and inexperience of the team, coaches and players are optimistic about the upcoming season.

"I think we might surprise some people when they see the results on the water," Zack said.

Ryan noted the coaching staff has been instrumental in helping to mold the team.

"A lot of hard work has gone into making the team what it is, from the players as well as the coaches," Ryan said. "The fact that we don't have racing experience is countered by the fact that we have so much room to grow."

Ficco pointed toward the team's passion as a crucial advantage.

"I've already seen a lot of growth this year, and although we have a lot of girls that are new at the sport, they are very passionate about it," Ficco said. "We can only get better."

Women's rowing team prepares for regatta. (The Beacon)