Gophers open Big Ten season, win one race

Minnesota went up against top-tier conference talent, and it showed.

by Jack Satzinger

The Gophers lost to Michigan and Michigan State over the weekend, winning just one event in the first varsity four against the Spartans.

Those losses came to highly touted schools that may be even better than advertised. Michigan entered the week as the No. 10-ranked team in the nation, and Michigan State fell just outside the NCAA rankings.

“Michigan is really, really strong,” head coach Wendy Davis said. “I think Michigan is going to end up much higher-ranked. I think they’re a top-five school.”

Davis didn’t want to make excuses for losing to one of the nation’s top teams, but her team’s lineup saw some last-minute changes Saturday.

Nicolette Marquardt of the first varsity eight traveled with the team to Ann Arbor, Mich., but was unable to race because of an illness. Her absence sent ripples to the rest of Minnesota’s boats, completely changing lineups.

“When someone’s missing out of the first boat, then you take someone out of the second boat, and then you’ve got to take someone out of the first four,” Davis said. “It’s just a domino thing.”

The Gophers struggled to stay competitive against Michigan in the morning, and junior Lynn Hodnett said she wasn’t surprised by the results. Still, the Gophers aren’t dejected after a less-than-ideal weekend.

“We’re definitely not hanging our heads and giving up,” Hodnett said.

Minnesota’s afternoon session went better and showed the Gophers what they need to improve on for the rest of the season. Hodnett said their improvement needs to center mainly on technical things, like rowing as a unit instead of as nine different people.

If the team fixes those little problems, it could help the first varsity eight close the five-second gap that separated them from the Spartans on Saturday.

“We were within grasp of Michigan State,” Hodnett said. “I know we’re within grasp of Wisconsin.”

The Badgers were the fourth team in Michigan over the weekend, but the Gophers didn’t race against the rival school. Minnesota did get a good look at Wisconsin, though, which could help them prepare for an early May race against the Badgers in Minneapolis.

“I thought they looked good and they’ve got some speed to them,” Davis said. “They look sharp, and they’re going to be a team to be reckoned with.”

By the time May rolls around, the Gophers could be, too. They now have a bye week to fix some problems before facing Iowa on April 27.

Davis said all of Minnesota’s boats improved Saturday, but she’s looking for more dramatic improvement over the next month before the Big Ten championship.

“We’ve got a month, my goodness,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of time to be working on things and get down what we need to get down.”