The promise of future success propelled the UCLA women’s rowing team as it traveled to its second NCAA Championship in three years, where it placed eighth overall.
“It just shows us that we do deserve to go to nationals and be top in the country,” senior coxswain Ariel Handler said. “I think it brought up our confidence a lot, and they’re just going to keep doing better and better.”
After finishing the season ranked No. 8, with a third-place finish at the Pac-12 Championship, the Bruins traveled to New Jersey with new momentum after being snubbed by last year’s NCAA Championship selection.
“I think not having gotten an invitation last year just kind of fueled us even more this year to do well,” junior Mariko Snyder said.
“I think for a lot of the sophomores and the freshmen and even some of the juniors who didn’t go two years ago, it was just a really exciting experience. We were all really fired up and really excited to be there.”
Snyder rowed for the varsity eight boat, which placed first in the Petite Final on Sunday.
“We had three solid races,” Snyder said. “We would have preferred to be in the Grand Final, but it just didn’t quite happen for us. I think we still had a really solid showing. As a team I think everyone across the board did a really great job.”
The second varsity eight led the team, earning a spot in the Grand Final where it placed sixth ““ better than any boat in the history of the program.
“It was pretty amazing being the first UCLA boat to go to the Grand Final,” Handler said. “I think it’s just the beginning for the team, but it was a good way to get ourselves in there this year.”
The varsity four also led the Petite Final on Sunday, edging out Notre Dame.
Although the team will lose two seniors, they will add six student-athletes to next year’s squad, and the players say they are looking forward to improving on their best season ever.
“I think having that little taste of what going to nationals was like will really motivate us to work even harder next year to get back to nationals and … to win or to place in the top three,” Snyder said.
“Even though we’re done, I think everyone came back and was just super excited to train this summer and to get back in the fall.”
Compiled by Taylor Aquino, Bruin contributor.