Women’s crew team looking to build on last season’s momentum
After winning the Liberty League championship and finishing third at the NCAA championships last May, the Ithaca College women’s team has high expectations for themselves this season.
“The team’s goal is to get back to the NCAAs and do better than last year,” said graduate student Michele Hyland.
Six athletes who were part of the boat that took home bronze at the 2021 NCAA Championships are Returning as a bomber this season. These dreams are not out of reach for graduate students Breck Snow and Devi de Oliveira; seniors Emily Lighthall, Laura Trainor and Edie McRoberts; and junior Brenna Hanratty all competed in the NCAA Championship race in Sarasota, Fla, last season and hope to return in May.
After finishing the season as the third-ranked Division III school in the country by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association, Senior Captain Izzy Ozkurt said the team is ready to prove its worth in 2022.
“We’re still going high after this season,” said Ozkurt. “But we want to show all the hard work that this team put in over the fall season and winter.”
In addition to the team’s successful season, two Bombers received All-American honors for their efforts during the 2021 campaign. Libby Ryan ’21 was selected as a first-team All-American in the 2019–20 season, and graduate student Allison Arndt was named to the second team called.
Hyland said the team will try to build on that success and is looking forward to the start of the season.
“We’re really pushing ourselves, we can’t wait to get back on the water,” Hyland added.
The college women’s sculling team competed in three races in the fall, including the leader of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 23rd and 24th with the seventh place.
To fill the spots on the varsity eight boat, the team looks to Hyland, Ozkurt, Arndt, Junior Taylor Volmrich and senior Dania Bogdanovic to move up. But head coach Becky Robinson said “seats are open to anyone who puts in the work,” including promising newcomer Maggie Farber.
The most anticipated races this season, Robinson said, are the championship races, including the New York State Championships on April 23, the Liberty League Championship on April 29 in Saratoga Springs, New York, the National Invitational Rowing Championships [NIRC] on May 8 in Worcester, Massachusetts and the May 27-29 NCAA Regatta in Sarasota, Florida.
“The NCAA [Championship] is limited to two [eight-person boats]’ said Robinson. “But the squad is deep enough to have five [eight-person boats]. So for athletes who aren’t in the first two boats, the [New York State] and NIRC championships are really exciting.”
Ozkurt said she’s looking forward to the Liberty League Championship the most because it helps the team focus as the postseason begins. The Bombers have finished first in the event each of the past three seasons, with the exception of the 2020 season, which was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fountain, Not to brag, but we usually win that,” Ozkurt said. “But it also changes our mindset from just having fun to ‘wWe have to work hard, we’re here to win a national championship.’”
As captain, Ozkurt tries to motivate and encourage her teammates. She said she believes her motivation and mentoring is really helping her younger teammates.
“Often they’re surprised at how far they can push their bodies,” Ozkurt said. “They release something inside of themselves that they didn’t know they had.”
Hyland said she looks forward to returning to competition this spring and is pleased that the underclassmen will have the opportunity to participate in a traditional schedule of meetings.
“This year is going to be really special, it’s like a redemption year,‘ Hyland said. “Some of us [graduate students] use our extra year of eligibility. Due to COVID, this is the first full season for juniors, sophomores and freshmen[-19].”
Ozkurt said she’s adjusted to the pandemic affecting her sport and is cautiously optimistic about the idea of having a typical season again.
“Having that normalcy this season feels weird,” Ozkurt said. “It makes me nervous every moment, it can all be taken away again.”
However, Robinson said she hopes this is the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting competition. She said the team didn’t get a chance to play all of their usual opponents because of this, so we want to revisit that.
“Traditionally, the biggest competition was within the Liberty League [Rochester Institute of Technology] and Hobart [College]’ said Robinson. “But the University of Rochester has a new coach this year, so they could bring something.”
Ozkurt said the Bombers’ toughest opponent outside of the Liberty League this year will be Bates College. The Bobcats have won four consecutive national championships. The two teams meet in the National Invitational Rowing Championship and the NCAA Regatta.
The Bombers will begin their season in the Cayuga Duels against William Smith College, Canisius College and Johnson & Wales University on April 2 at Cayuga Inlet.