After a disappointing eighth-place showing at the NCAA Championships last June, the Michigan women’s crew team looks to reclaim its position as a top team when it starts the spring season tomorrow in South Bend against Notre Dame.

Originally, the dual regatta was scheduled to take place at Michigan’s facility at Belleville Lake, but, due to unfavorable weather, the home waters were left unacceptable for tomorrow’s meet.

“We are very pleased that this week’s match was moved (to South Bend) so we can focus on our rowing, and not worry about the conditions of the water,” sophomore Brett Sickler said.

This week’s regatta will be staged in three, separate 1,000-meter pieces rather than the usual 2,000-meter race, due to the shorter length of the water. But these last-minute changes will not affect the Wolverines, as they look forward to being involved in competition for the first time since October.

“Notre Dame is a fairly strong opponent since they have already been on the water, and they beat two up-and-coming teams in Clemson and Tennessee,” senior coxswain Helen Dalis said. “They actually got invited to the NCAAs for the first time last year. They will certainly be challenging since we haven’t been on the water yet, and the entire team is anxious and excited to get back to racing after such a long break.”

Junior Heather Mandoli, who has earned two varsity letters, agrees that winter training has gone very well, as it is such an integral part of keeping a team at the top of its game.

“Rowing is such a growing sport,” Mandoli said. “Each year, the competition is getting stronger and stronger, and it is important to keep up with that.”

After Notre Dame, the Wolverines have an even tougher challenge as they travel to New Jersey next weekend, when they will take on national powerhouses Princeton and Brown, who won the 2002 NCAA Championship.

“We have a big race at Princeton coming up, and it is quite determining,” Mandoli said. “It is a measuring stick for us, to see how far we have come and if we have performed to our expectations.”

Stickler added: “We’re really excited about the Princeton race. We want to put in a good showing and show that we’re a force nationally.”

Expectations are high for Michigan this season and the upcoming competitions will go a long way toward determining whether or not they are met.

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