U looking for a return to victories

by Kent Erdahl

No more tuneups. No more borrowed equipment. No more excuses.

Minnesota’s rowing team will be sorting and discarding any unneeded baggage before it departs for Bloomington, Ind., this weekend for a double dual against Big Ten opponents.

The Gophers will face No. 1 Ohio State and unranked Indiana in their second Big Ten outing this season. And if the team wants to earn the respect of the conference, coach Wendy Davis said this is the time to do it.

Throughout the spring season, Minnesota’s rowers have considered themselves the strongest unit in their four years as a program. The women cited depth, experience and healthy competition as evidence for their claim.

The results were quickly encouraging. The Gophers swept Louisville in the first dual of the spring, and they followed with solid team performances at Tennessee and Iowa.

But after rising into the top 25, the marquee group within the team – the first Varsity Eight boat – struggled in a loss against UCLA last weekend.

The Gophers came into the race confident, but they suffered when they were unable to bring their own boat to Los Angeles.

Minnesota’s loss bounced it from the top 25 and off the radar.

“It wasn’t a good race altogether,” senior Jill Peters said. “We definitely need to re-establish ourselves in the rowing scene.”

The team has that opportunity this weekend, but both Davis and Peters said it is time to take a fresh approach.

Although it looks to overmatch Indiana, the team will be the underdog against No. 1 Ohio State, winner of three-straight Big Ten boat of the week honors.

“There isn’t a whole lot of pressure,” Peters said. “It’s just, ‘Let’s see if we can challenge them.’ “

For the second Varsity Eight, Varsity Four and Novice Eight teams – which only have two combined losses – the races offer a chance to legitimize the quality of Minnesota’s depth.

“This is the first time we’re coming up against real competition for all those boats,” Davis said. “So it’s a chance for us to see where we stack up across the country in those boats.”

Although the weekend’s races could put the team back on the minds of top Big Ten programs, Davis said it will come down to nothing but doing what they are capable of.

“We can be smooth, we can be long or we can be sharp,” Davis said. “And it’s time for us to be all three at the same time.”