The women's rowing team after the Patriot League Championship on May 11, 2018. The Varsity Four and Second Varsity Eight became the program's first and second-ever medalists at the Patriot League Championship. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Women’s rowing flashback: 2018 team makes history at Patriot League Championships

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The Lehigh women’s rowing team made program history in 2018 when all three of their boats advanced to the grand finals of the Patriot League Championship for the first time ever. 

With all three boats advancing, Lehigh’s Varsity Four and Varsity Eight boats became the program’s first and second-ever medalists when they each placed third in the grand final. 

Finishing with a school-record 33 points, tying for fourth place overall out of nine teams, 2018 represents Lehigh’s best finish to date since the league expanded to nine teams

Rower Elise Fredericks, ‘18, said there was not anything as fulfilling as hearing that all three boats had made it to the grand finals. 

“I’ve never experienced anything like it. You can only be successful as a team if everyone trusts each other full heartedly,” Fredericks said. “It was a testament to how cohesive and aligned we were as a team that year.” 

Frederick said they became successful through a strong team dynamic that supported each other’s athletic ability and potential. 

Whether it was working out in the gym, lifting weights or attending practices, it was a group effort to have multiple women oriented around the same goals and competitiveness, she said. 

“Medals and accomplishments are amazing rewards for athletic performances, but our friendships help us withstand anything because of the successes and failures that we experienced together,” Fredericks said. 

She said the moments off the water were just as important as the moments on the water. 

The conversations with fellow teammates and coffee dates in between practices were bonding experiences that helped unify the team, Fredericks said.  

“We were willing to row for one another, as opposed to just rowing for ourselves,” Fredericks said. 

Former first team All-Region nominee and two-time second team All-Patriot League honoree  Julianna Malachin, ‘18, said multiple successful moments from the 2017-2018 season helped elevate them in the Patriot League Championship.

Malachin, who is now an assistant coach for the Mountain Hawks, said reaching the finals in the Murphy Cup race, being named Patriot League boat of the week and having the women’s varsity beat Drexel in their heat were accomplishments that gave the team momentum to advance in the championships.

She said having a unified front on their team gave them a better understanding of the proper ways to compete. 

“During practice, we push ourselves to win against one another because we understand that by pushing each other past our limits, we would evolve as a team, and that reflected in us winning (the Patriot League Championship) that year,” Malachin said. 

Malachin said by pushing each other to new heights, the uniform level of competitiveness on the team increased, helping propel women’s rowing success even beyond that season.  

“It definitely helps when you are all unified and on the same page because that culminated throughout our team on and off the water,” Malachin said. 

Head coach Brian Conley said 2018 was the year his players demonstrated improved leadership and a new level of accountability, something he had not seen before. 

“They had a culture where they enjoyed hard work, but they started to bring in the world of competing every day which is what made the difference for them,” Conley said. 

He said that year, more than half of the team consisted of walk-ons, some of whom had no prior rowing experience. 

The newer rowers were able to learn alongside the recruited athletes, creating tight bonds amongst teammates, Conley said. 

“I think this demonstrated that we are all in this together, and there is not one person that is better than the other,” Conley said. 

Conley said there were some who did not believe they could make it to the grand finals, but that continuous hard work and dedication allowed them to achieve that goal. 

Conley said the 2017-2018 team was one of the most special he has coached. 

“For us, it was a culmination of a lot of hard work, but more importantly, it was everybody that came before us that laid the foundation for us to do so,” Conley said. “It wasn’t just one event for our team, it meant everything to alumni, parents and everyone who invested in our team.” 

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