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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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Rowing dominates in regular season finale

By Zach Shaw, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 4, 2014

Past victories were irrelevant. Previous times were, too. The howling wind brought choppy waves and threw records out the window.

Despite the less-than-desirable conditions, the No. 9 Michigan women’s rowing team was strong from start to finish. In its final tune-up before the postseason, the Wolverines won 13 of 14 events Saturday en route to easy back-to-back victories over No. 17 Louisville and No. 21 Michigan State.

“The later races were especially bad (weather),” said Michigan coach Mike Rothstein. “But it’s good to get practice in that, because we may see it in Indianapolis in a couple weeks (at the Big Ten Championships). I thought we improved as the day went on, and I think we’re all pleased with the result.”

The day began with the first varsity-eight boat earning its fifth straight victory. By extending the streak to six later that day, Michigan will send its best boat into the Big Ten Championships with plenty of momentum.

“After we raced (then-No. 1) Ohio State (March 29), we realized that it’s now or never,” said senior Emily Idoni. “We’ve really come back focused since then, and we always try to practice better than we did the previous practice. We’re building up these residual efforts and just building ourselves up each day.”

After the first race, the second varsity-eight only furthered the dominance, beating the Cardinals and Spartans by 3.95 and 14.32 seconds, respectively.

The three Wolverine varsity-four boats combined to go 5-1 on the day, winning by an average margin of 22.55 seconds. The victories were especially impressive to Rothstein, who spent much of Friday night reshuffling the lineups.

“I thought it was a good performance for everyone,” Rothstein said. “We had to shuffle our lineups last night, so we didn’t get a chance to practice with our new lineups and had people rowing out of position, but I thought they all handled it pretty well.”

After the races, the Wolverines’ 16 seniors were honored in their last home competition. An integral part of a Big Ten championship and NCAA runner-up finish in 2012, the class is looking to add to its resume before the year ends.

“I was in a boat with three other seniors,” said senior Andrea Johnson. “So we were ready just to get after it and got out with a win, go out with a bang.”

Added Rothstein: “It’s a special group. They’re big in terms of numbers, but they’re also big in terms of talent and great work ethic. They’ve been a big part of this program and brought great leadership this year.”

With the two wins, Rothstein said his team is now the best it has been all year. With the completion of winter semester last week, the team aims to improve upon that momentum by now being able to practice on the water twice a day.

With the Big Ten Championships in Indianapolis looming May 18, Rothstein feels that the forward progress shown in recent weeks must continue for any success in the end.

“It’s all about continued improvement,” Rothstein said. “It feels like we’ve been a month behind all spring because of the weather. We really missed a lot of training on the water. About two weeks ago, things started coming together a little bit, and now exams are over, so we can really focus on rowing and improving every day.

“All of our boats are getting faster, and we want that to continue by having everyone coming to practice every day looking to get better.”