May 29, 2010

By James Raia
Special to

GOLD RIVER, Calif. - It's only .06 seconds, but Yale has the advantage after posting the fastest semifinal time Saturday in second day of the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships on Lake Natoma.

Rowing in Lane 3, the Bulldogs edged top-seed California, completing the 2,000 meters in the first event of the windy morning session in 6 minutes 16.54 seconds at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.

California, the reigning Pac-10 titlist and fastest qualifier, finished second (6:16:60), with Virginia third (6:17.69).

Princeton (6:18.76) claimed the second semifinal, with defending national champ Stanford second (6:20.12) and Southern California (6:24.01) completing the grand final field in third.

Nine of the 16 Division I teams entered in the three-day championships advanced all their boats to the semifinals. But only Cal and Virginia remained with boats in all grand finals after the condensed second day of competition. Virginia was the No. 1 team seed entering the competition, with the Golden Bears third.

"Obviously, the weekend has gone well," said Virginia coach Kevin Sauer. "We achieved our goal of getting every boat into the grand finals. Now they have to row at another level. They've got to step it up to another level because it's finals day Sunday."

In varsity eights, the top six seeds advanced to the grand final, with less than eight seconds separating the fastest and slowest qualifying boats. Brown (6:27.84), Virginia (6:32.79) and California (6:32.89) advanced to the second varsity final in the first heat of the semis. Stanford (6:28.94), Princeton (6:33.24) and Michigan (6:34.00) advanced from the second heat.

Stanford edged Virginia by 0.37 seconds in the varsity eight grand final last year in Cherry Hill, N.J.

In Division I varsity fours, Virginia continued its dominance of the regatta. The Cavaliers built an early open-water lead over Wisconsin and Southern California and claimed the first of two semifinals by more than six seconds in 7:07.28. USC (7:13.55) edged Wisconsin (7:13.95) as the other first-semifinal grand final qualifiers. California (7:13.22), Washington (7:14.41) and Brown (7:17.3) qualified for the varsity fours grand final in the second semifinal.

"I think our head's in the game right now," said Victoria Nenchev, Washington varsity fours stroke. "We're in a good position because tomorrow if we execute the plan that we know we can execute, then it will be to our advantage. We have an opportunity, and we will value that."

Princeton (7:18.11), Stanford (7:21.36), Michigan (7:23.00), Michigan State (7:25.54), Yale (7:27.23) and Clemson (7:29.68) advanced to the petite grand final. The championships conclude Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m. with the varsity fours grand finals. The varsity eights grand final ends the regatta and is scheduled at 11:45 a.m.