BELLEVILLE — On a cold and foggy Sunday morning on Belleville Lake, the women’s rowing team started its fall season with an exhibition match against in-state rivals.

In the competition, the eight-person boats competed in 5-minute intervals called pieces and were limited to 26 strokes per minute. The boats were put into two different flights, with Michigan and Michigan State racing two boats and Eastern Michigan racing just one boat in the first flight.

“Today was really about focusing on our own goals,” senior Laura Dunn said. “I was pretty happy with the results today, but I think the two even boats should have been closer with the competition.”

In the first flight, the Wolverines and Spartans raced even early in all five pieces, but Michigan State won four of the five pieces. Eastern Michigan trailed the pack in the first flight and finished in fifth place each time.

In the first outing of the season, Dunn and the 11 other returning seniors helped lead the team. Dunn, a coxswain, has seven of eight rowers returning from last season on the boat.

“We have been a really young team for a while now, but this year we have a strong and big senior class,” Dunn said. “We have a lot of depth and are really looking for the freshman to step up and make a contribution on this team.”

The four recruited freshmen on the team have mixed into a team with veteran experience. Last season, the Wolverines finished 11th at the NCAA Championships. The rowing championships are in the spring, so the fall season is a way for the rowing team to warm up.

To get ready for the season, the coaches schedule non-scoring meets so the rowers can get used to competition and work on what they have learned in practice.

“When we line up against another team, it brings a little more intensity and anxiety,” Mark Rothstein said. “It changes the dynamics of the rowing, and that’s what we were looking for today. It was the first time we have competed and it exposed some things.”

The Wolverine rowers focused on working on their technique and said they felt good in the first meet.

“I think we are making some progress, and the idea of (Sunday) was to work on what we have been practicing on,” Michigan coach Rothstein said. “We wanted to see how well we executed in competition.”

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