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Bulldogs Set For Return To NCAA Championship

Olivia Maclean (Steve Musco photo)
Olivia Maclean (Steve Musco photo)

Racing Starts Friday, Finals Sunday

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's crew is back on the big stage. After a one-year hiatus, the Bulldogs earned one of only 11 at-large berths to the 2015 NCAA Rowing Championships, which get under way Friday on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif.

Yale, making its 16th appearance in the NCAA Championship, enters as an underdog, which seems to suit Will Porter, The Friends of YWC Head Coach of the Bulldogs, just fine.

"We were not even here last year," he said. "We are just trying to get back in the mix."

Recent results, though, indicate Yale could be a factor. After a regular season that was greatly affected by the weather, the Bulldogs appear to be peaking at the right time. Yale, ranked eighth in the latest CRCA-US Rowing national poll, finished second at the Ivy League Championship and had all three crews that will compete at NCAA's – varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four – medal.

"This championship is not about the fastest boat in the country. It is about the fastest team in the country," Porter said.

The varsity eight of Lily Lindsay (Fr., Harrison, N.Y.), Meg Galloway (Fr., Ridgefield, Conn.), Olivia Maclean (So., Harvard, Mass.), Nina Demmerle (Sr., Greenwich, Conn.), Colleen Maher (Jr., Oakton, Va.), Marybeth Swords (Fr., Sudbury, Mass.), Madeline Dinse (Sr., Portland, Ore.), stroke Lydia Keating (So., Brookline, Mass.) and coxswain: Christine Devlin (Sr., Harvard, Mass.) is the first to race on Friday. The Bulldogs face California, Princeton, USC and Gonzaga in Heat 1 at 9 a.m. PDT.

Yale's second varsity eight is in Heat 4 at 10:20 a.m. racing California, Michigan, USC, Massachusetts and Navy. The crew is Amy Warner (Fr., East London, South Africa), Allison Nordell (Fr., Gates Mills, Ohio), Amber Anderson (Sr., Richmond, United Kingdom), Brit Sharon (Jr., Newton, Mass.), Kate O'Brien (So., Clare, Ireland), Emily Patton (So., Guilford, Conn.), Amina Edwards (Sr., Boston, Mass.), stroke Mieke Scherpbier (Jr. Upper Dublin, Pa.) and coxswain: Jessica Michaels (Fr., Bangkok, Thailand).

Yale's only two losses in the varsity four this season were by very narrow margins to Brown – both in the regular season and at the Ivy Championship. The crew of Abbie Young (Jr., Barnstable, Mass.), Sophie Deans (Fr., Sydney, Australia, Kara Freeman (Sr., Longmeadow, Mass.), stroke Kristina Wagner (Sr., Weston, Mass.) and coxswain: Laura Grimbergen (Sr., Redwood City, Calif.) is in Heat 3 against Virginia, USC, Notre Dame, Navy and Central Florida at 10:50 a.m.

In all three heats, the top two finishers advance to Saturday's semifinals, while the rest will be forced to race again later Friday in the Repechage, a second chance to advance to the semis. The finals are Sunday.

"The top 12 teams will be fast," Porter said. "The three-day format is difficult. You have to be ready for a sustained effort."

The Bulldogs' best finish at the NCAA Championship came in 2004 when they were second, one of Yale's 12 top-10 finishes.

The Bulldogs have had one crew win a grand final four times. The varsity eight finished first in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and the second varsity won in 2009.

The Northern California course has been friendly to Yale over the years. It is where the Bulldogs won two of their varsity eight grand finals (2010, 2008) and also where they had their second-place finish.

"It is great to be back at Lake Natoma," Porter said. "I think it is the most beautiful race course in the country." 

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Report filed by Tim Bennett (, Yale Sports Publicity