It’s not easy being a member of a team whose playing field is frozen over for much of the school year.

The Michigan men’s rowing team, which claims club-varsity status, has managed to successfully work through the icy Michigan winters in recent years, winning back-to-back American Collegiate Rowing Association Championships. That final race, which will be in Oklahoma City at the end of the spring season, is what the team prepares for all winter long.

The varsity eight boat, which is made up of the top eight team members, may only have four returning members this year, but it has brought of lot of esteem and pride to the program. Last season they finished with an undefeated record of 35-0 against other varsity eight boats.

Senior and team president, Matt Zoufaly, believes the team’s record as undefeated club champions will carry through this season.

“The team is doing excellent right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good chemistry.”

But it’s not smooth sailing just yet. After practicing for several months inside the Intramural Sports Building for about 25 hours per week, the boat assignments have still not been established.

A series of selections throughout the year, revolving around tough workouts and seat races will eventually determine the boats. That’s a lot of pressure — especially for a team of this size and experience level.

The current men’s rowing team is the biggest in program history, with a roster of 65 rowers and 12 coxswains.

In addition to the size of the team, the median age is also much lower than usual, boasting twice as many sophomores as juniors and seniors combined.

“The team is pretty young this year,” senior vice president Mike Tiesenga said. “In past years there’s always been a lot of upperclassmen just ready to take over, and right now the sophomores are in the mix. It’s going to be a challenge to really work in some of that youth and inexperience with more experienced guys.”

Michigan coach Greg Hartsuff also expressed concern about the youth of the team this year.

“Some of these guys have not experienced the fervor at which varsity eight [boats] come at you,” he said. “The sophomores had a bit of an advantage as freshmen because they had more athleticism than most of the teams (they raced against). “

The team’s goal this year is to get the best athletes from the three classes and filter them into one boat. During the first race of the season on March 27, the Michigan team will face tough, established programs like Stanford, Brown, Northeastern and Boston University at the San Diego Crew Classic.

Both Zoufaly and Tiesenga also expressed the goal of holding onto their title as ACRA National Champions and winning the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s championship event, Michigan’s regional race.

“(It’s) definitely going to be a young boat this year,” Zoufaly said. “It’s a very young team overall. There’s challenges that come along with that, but there’s also the excitement of doing things that a lot of people haven’t done before.”

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