The Bruins failed to advance to the NCAA championship last season, and are at risk of having history repeat itself in 2018.
They hope a strong performance at the Pac-12 championship this weekend will lead them to a different outcome this year.
UCLA women’s rowing currently sits outside of the top 20 teams in the nation at an unofficial rank of 26th. The NCAA Division I Women’s Rowing Committee will select 22 teams to compete in the national championship in late May. Eleven of these teams automatically qualify based on conference results, and the remaining 11 slots will be filled with at-large selections to complete the championship field.
“This is our last chance to try to get to the NCAAs,” said coach Amy Fuller Kearney. “There’s certainly a number of quality schools out there that are kind of on the bubble, so I don’t think there’s any doubt that the higher we place at Pac-12s, the more likely our chances of going.”
The Bruins will have to play against many highly ranked teams on their path to the NCAAs, such as No. 1 California, defending national champion No. 2 Washington and No. 5 Stanford at the Pac-12 championship.
Senior stroke Mikayla Hart said that even with the high stakes at the Pac-12 championships, the team will still try to focus on their own boats, not on who they’re racing.
“You want to beat the other person, but you also want to have your best race,” Hart said. “You’re kind of racing yourself, and then looking out to who’s over there. Luckily we’ve raced a lot of the teams already this year, so we kind of know what to expect from them and how to go forward with that.”
The Bruins have been in this same situation for the last two years, when they entered the Pac-12s with a chance at making it to the NCAAs, and fell short of making it both times. The Bruins have never won a women’s rowing championship, and haven’t claimed the Pac-12 title since 1989.
The Bruins are still working on finalizing the lineups of their boats, even with less than a week left before the Pac-12s.
Hart, who has been racing mostly with the varsity four boat this season, said that even after their last regular season meet at USC, the team is still experimenting with different women in each boat to find the best combinations.
“The lineups are constantly fluid throughout all of the boats,” Hart said. “We train to have anybody in the boat at any time. We all use the same techniques and have the same skills, and everyone’s fitness level is where it should be, … so you should be able to make it go as fast as possible regardless of who’s there.”
The Bruins will have to wait and see if their adjustments pay off this weekend to help send them to the NCAA championship.
“Hopefully this weekend at Pac-12s we’ll have our best races yet,” Hart said.