Lehigh freshman Tori Dorn, junior Ally Connors, and sophomore Ellie Falk compete in the Varsity 8 boat on Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Philadelphia. The women's rowing team competed against La Salle and Fairfield. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh women’s rowing has confident mindset this season

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The Lehigh women’s rowing team came back from winter break with strong motivation for its spring season. 

The team was committed to a detailed winter training program over break. When the women came back together at the start of this semester, assessments were made to decide boat placements.

“Everyone came back in really great shape,” senior captain Jenny DiPietro said. “It was a huge help for the start of the season and we could just take off where we left off.” 

Boats are determined based on each girls’ physical aptitude.

“We try to find out if anyone has gotten faster, it’s a good way to keep up the competitiveness and toughness especially because it’s always changing,” said coach Brian Conley.

The team is focused on pushing aside distractions to ensure that its only focus this season is how to make the boat go faster in the water. 

“Over break, since we were one of the only teams here, we had team movie nights and spa nights, and we would try to organize team dinners, which we call ‘team Fridays,'” DiPietro said. “Since we are in the dry season, it gives us fun things to look forward to.” 

Culture and depth are two of the team’s biggest strengths. The athletic department recognizes the team as having one of the best cultures of any team at Lehigh.

The main focus of each practice this year is increasing the team’s overall speed. Last year, two boats received medals, which the team deemed as a successful season.

“We finally realized we could attain those high goals, so we’ve made them even bigger this year,” DiPietro said.

With the possibility of changing their position in the boat every week, the members are constantly motivated to work harder in practices and keep up their athletic strength.

The team recognizes that the transition from the machines to water is an adjustment. For this reason, rowing machines are a major component of the team’s indoor training as they help the women master their technical strokes. 

“There is a certain feel to being on the water that you just can’t get on land, but our athletes do a really good job of trying to mimic those motions,” Conley said.

However, certain technologies are able to mimic the feeling of being out on the water. Rowing tanks are indoor facilities where rowers sit in a stationary boat with water on either side to get the sensation of a stroke in the water.

Lehigh’s rowing program is not quite there with that technology. However, many of Lehigh’s top Patriot League competitors, such as Navy and Boston University, have acquired rowing tanks for their training.

DiPietro said although the rowing tanks would be beneficial, she does not believe the addition would be necessary, especially since the team overall is strong this year.

The practices leading up to the first few races were exciting, and the team was ready to start its season.

“I wouldn’t say practices are a high-stress environment, people are just really excited to get out there, everyone has a top mindset,” said freshman Ariel Deljanin.

The season started with a race on March 16; however, it was shortened and eventually canceled due to bad weather conditions. The next race took place on March 23 with all five boats that raced qualifying for either petite or grand finals, a successful day for the Mountain Hawks. The team attributes its success to the hard work it has consistently been putting into practices.

The team is looking at Navy, Georgetown, Boston University and Bucknell as its toughest competitors this season.

“We have a sign in the boathouse that says, ‘practice like you race, race like you practice,'” DiPietro said. “I think that speaks a lot to our attitude this season.”

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