June 5, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 72°F


Women’s rowing vies for national championship

After wrapping up its regular season April 29, the Ithaca College women’s rowing team is looking to nail down not only its fifth consecutive Liberty League Championship but also its first national title since 2005

Rain or shine, the squad will travel to Saratoga Springs on May 5 where the varsity eight will compete among six other boats for the opportunity to punch a ticket to the big dance, which will commence May 25. The conference title is based on a first-place showing in the varsity eight race. However, to earn an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament on the women’s side, teams must also have a second varsity eight boat entered.

Senior captain Brenna Hanratty, a member of the second varsity eight crew, said she recognizes the importance of her position in the second boat and values her role in helping to work to secure a spot on the national stage. 

“I’ve always been in the second varsity eight — I kind of hold the fort down in there,” Hanratty said. “For the national championship, you need both the 1V and the 2V to do well, so I kind of like how it’s the underdog that really determines our placement as a team.”

Head coach Becky Robinson ’88 said that earning the automatic bid into the tournament is extremely valuable to her team’s performance, as it relieves some of the pressure when the team competes in the New York State Collegiate Championships on May 6 and National Invitational Rowing Championships on May 12 before heading to Camden, New Jersey, for NCAA racing. 

“It’s the difference between saying to a senior, ‘This is your last game, your last day, your last time playing for Ithaca unless you win today,’ and knowing that, no matter how you perform, there’s still another day,” Robinson said. “I don’t know what it is, but it gets them thinking about how much boat speed they can generate and, if it’s not good enough, we still have time to work on that.”

Robinson said that after competing against all of the in-conference teams during the regular season, it is clear that the Liberty League title could be anybody’s race.

“There are a clump of teams that are within four seconds of each other. There’s no team that is way out there leading the pack,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be hard. We’re really in the hunt.” 

Although earning the conference title has seemed routine for the Bombers in recent years, Hanratty said it will be vital for her team to not let up just yet.

“We’re feeling good about it, but we’re definitely not letting off the gas at all,” Hanratty said. “We’re still crossing our Ts and dotting all of our Is and putting in the work for those bigger races.”

Since 2002, the team has never dipped below seventh in the national rankings, most recently earning a third-place finish in 2022. As national competition grows closer for the Bombers, Hanratty said they want nothing more than to secure a first-place finish once again. 

“We really do have all the tools,” Hanratty said. “I’m one of three seniors in the second varsity eight while everyone else is pretty new, so, for me, it comes down to reminding those younger girls that even though this seems huge, [winning is] very much within our reach.”

Senior Taylor Volmrich, a member of the first varsity eight crew, said that unlike the second varsity eight, the first boat is loaded with seasoned veterans. With a combination of seniors and graduate students — including two sixth-year rowers — Volmrich said the “last ride” mentality is surging their boat into the postseason.

“We only get so many shots at an NCAA Championship,” Volmrich said. “You only get so many shots at winning a race in a boat with the people on your team right now. Focusing on here and now and what’s fulfilling versus what’s fun will be especially important for us in the postseason.”

Robinson said that having such a strong group of upperclassmen in the first boat provides the team with a valuable advantage over its competitors at the national level.

“They bring maturity, they bring experience, they bring confidence,” Robinson said. “Sitting in the stroke seat is a sixth-year, my bow pair is a senior and another sixth-year and those are the ends of the boat. The ends of the boat are critical for creating a rhythm, and that’s where all the experience is.”

Like Volmrich, Robinson said she understands the feeling of knowing her graduating class’s time with the program is coming to an end, and she hopes that sense of urgency can propel her team into finally reclaiming the national title. 

“They all know there is an ending point,” Robinson said. “It’s like the last sprint of a race; you always have a second wind, you can always push a little bit more. Realizing that allows them to push a little bit more than what they would have done knowing they have more time left. I think it just gives them that final sprint.”

Tess Ferguson can be reached at tferguson1@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @tessferg