Underdogs?

For a program that has finished no worse than eighth in the
nation in its seven-year history, a fourth seed at the Big Ten
Tournament proved to be enough motivation for the Michigan Rowing
team … 3.1 seconds worth.

Despite an inconsistent season, the Wolverines performed at
their best on Saturday in Iowa City against the nation’s top
teams. Tenth-see Michigan captured its fourth Big Ten Championship
in the past five seasons with an overall score of 128 points. No.
13 Wisconsin finished second, and rivals No. 1 Ohio State and No. 7
Michigan State, who had beaten Michigan earlier in the year,
finished third and fourth respectively.

“We’ve been the underdogs before but not by this
degree,” Michigan senior Heather Mandoli said. “The
past few weeks of practice, we’ve really come together. The
team was focused, and we had this nothing-to-lose type attitude
going into (last weekend. It was an incredible win and very
unexpected.”

Going into the final heat of the day, the Wolverines sat in
third place and needed an outright victory in the First Varsity
Eight race to win the Big Ten Championship. Michigan’s
toughest competition, Michigan State and Ohio State, both defeated
the Wolverines handily earlier this season.

“We’ve raced each other a lot, and we’ve
always been really competitive towards each other,” said
Mandoli about competing against the Buckeyes and the Spartans.
“It’s not such a rivalry — we use each other to
get better.”

The difference between April’s dual matches and the Big
Ten Tournament was additional speed training during practice and
heightened team passion.

“We definitely went in to this weekend with a different
attitude than previous weekends,” Mandoli said.
“We’ve gained some confidence from a couple weeks of
great practice. We had a little bit more desire and heart going
into this weekend than we’ve had. None of us were happy with
our results so far this season.”

The Wolverines’ goal coming into the Big Ten Championship
was to finish ahead of their fourth-place seeding. It appeared as
if the Wolverines were poised to finish below expectations until
the tournament’s final two races, where they scored 105 of
their 128 points. In those two competitions — the First
Varsity Eight and Second Varsity Eight races — a combined 3.1
seconds separated Michigan and the second place finishers. That
time difference, Michigan coach Mark Rothstein believes, was
achieved because of team unity throughout the up-and-down
season.

“Everybody had been disappointed with our performances
(this season), but the team stuck together. Nobody pointed
fingers,” Rothstein said.

Up next for the Wolverines is the Central Region Championships,
where bids to the NCAA Championship depend on a strong showing. The
Wolverines’ goal is to compete well enough to receive their
seventh consecutive NCAA bid.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.