May 30, 2010

By James Raia

Special to NCAA.com

GOLD RIVER, Calif. - Second-seeded Yale rowed to a start-to-finish Division I varsity eights victory and Virginia captured the team title Sunday on the final day of the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships on Lake Natoma.

Yale, which had the fastest semifinal, completed the 2,000 meters at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in 6 minutes 24.76 seconds.

Virginia (6:25.75) was second, followed by Princeton (6:27.06), California (6:27.60), Stanford (6:31.30) and Southern California (6:34.21).

With its fourth place in second varsity eights, second in varsity eights and dominating win in varsity fours, Virginia claimed the team title with 87 points. California finished second with 82, followed by Princeton with 76. Defending team titlist Stanford was fourth with 75.

It's Virginia's first team title since the NCAA began the women's championships in 1997.

Despite heat and semifinal winners both clocking 6:16 times, the varsity eights final, the concluding event of the three-day regatta, was about eight seconds slower. "We knew we had to get out to a fast start," said Taylor Ritzel, Yale's senior captain. "We knew Princeton would be right there, and if we could get out quick, then we just had to row our race."

Rowing into a headwind, Yale moved to the front, with the top four boats rarely changing positions and finishing less than three seconds apart. "It was very different today; we definitely felt the headwinds," said Ritzel of the Bulldogs' inside lane. "Our coxswain always calls out the times after each 500 (meters), so we knew it was slower."

Although Virginia and Princeton tried to narrow their deficits, Yale had the best times in each of the first 500-meter splits. Virginia had the fastest final 500 meters by about two seconds, but Yale's consistency prevailed.

"I definitely thought for us it was best to key on Princeton," said Yale coach Will Porter, whose Bulldogs won the varsity eights title for the third time in four years. "They're so fast out of the start and can dictate a race. We wanted to go with them.

"When it's a race like this when everyone is even with speed, there's really only one way to do it. You have to assert yourself and really push it."

In varsity fours, Virginia claimed the title in 7:07.98. The Cavaliers dominated the regatta, posting the fastest time by at least five seconds in each race. California (7:13.18) was second, followed by Wisconsin (7:13.72), Southern California (7:14.87), Brown (7:18.49) and Washington (7:19.31).

"It was a great regatta," said Washington coach Bob Ernst, completing his 37th season. "Women's rowing has come a long way. This is first-class stuff out here. The Yale crew that won the varsity race, that was just awesome."