INDIANAPOLIS –- It took 11 years, but a Southern school proved itself to be the top team in the country on Sunday as Nova Southeastern won the program’s first Division II rowing championship.

“It’s just amazing. It was a full team effort and they believed,” head coach Stephen Frazier-Wong said. “[It’s about] those two words – ‘team’ and ‘believe’. One of our coxes had ‘believe’ written on her arm. If they didn’t believe they could do it, they wouldn’t have worked as hard as they did all year and they wouldn’t have done all the things it took to get to this point.”

The victory was especially meaningful for the Sharks’ three seniors, who’ve endured four years of personal and program ups and downs on the road to their NCAA win.

“The senior stroke, Lauren Boudreau, she is far-and-away on the best leaders I’ve had the privilege of coaching. She’s a great leader on campus -– she’s the president of our student-athlete advisory committee. She’s just done so much for the team and the campus as a whole.”

Boudreau and her fellow seniors were forced to be strong leaders on the team after some upheavals in coaching staff the past few years.

“We’ve had three head coaches in the last three years, so we’ve had a team that’s so flexible and come up against so much -– learning a new coaching staff and new technique,” Boudreau said. “We’ve really just stuck together and it’s made us so close. There’s so much love on this team.”

Boudreau rowed alongside fellow senior two-seat Sarah Patterson in the Sharks’ eight boat, which kicked it into gear in the last 500 meters for the V8 grand final win on Sunday.

“Sarah Patterson took herself out of this final race last year because she wasn’t feeling well enough,” Frazier-Wong said. “She recognized she wasn’t going to be able to give 100 percent and so she gave up her seat.”

“Last year I made it to heats and right after the race I got really sick,” Patterson said. “I have stomach problems, but we learned that once I keep on top of eating that I’ll be fine, so I religiously would plan out ‘Did I have enough protein? Did I have enough carbs? When was the last time I ate?’ All that work was worth it and I feel great. I’m so glad I stuck it out because this is the thing I love.”

That love carries across boats to senior Amber Morrell, the bow seat in Nova’s varsity four, which blazed past No. 1-seed Barry, finishing almost two boat lengths ahead of their rival in the V4 grand final.

“Amber [Morrell] has just had a rough road battling through injuries all of her four years and so her goal was to get through this year and make it her best year ever and she completed that goal with an exclamation point.”

Morrell came out strong on Sunday with the ability to give her team the power they needed.

“I’ve been injured for the last two years, which was hard. I had a good freshman year and a good senior year. It’s exciting to end it well.”

With Morrell back up to speed, third time was the charm for the tenacious Shark seniors, who finished fifth in 2011 and then third last year at the national championships, but still felt unsatisfied.

“Leaving here last year we were hungry, we were really hungry for a championship,” Boudreau said. “We’ve had a picture of this trophy up in our erg area all year. The thought of a national championship has not left our minds since we left here last year.”

Finally claiming that trophy was made all the more sweet by both Nova’s V4 and V8 earning dramatic wins in their grand finals.

“This is going to sound cliché and I hate clichés,” Patterson said, “but ending the season with both boats winning – dreams do come true. It just means that we can do anything we want because now we know as long as we do the hard work with dedication and teamwork and relying on others, we can do anything we want to do and nothing is impossible for us.”