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New coach, new lineup fortify UCLA rowing in sight of season opener against USC

Members of UCLA rowing row during a race. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin senior staff)


Saturday, 9 a.m.

USC Boathouse
No TV info

By Ira Gorawara

March 11, 2023 9:32 a.m.

After landing last overall in the 2022 Pac-12 Championships, a fresh season commences for the Bruins with a new face at the helm.

In its first matchup of the season, UCLA rowing is slated to take on crosstown rival USC at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California. For the second consecutive year, the Bruins and Trojans meet to open their respective seasons – but this time, the former is led by coach Previn Chandraratna.

In last year’s regatta, the varsity eight traversed the finish line a mere 1.44 seconds ahead of the Trojans. Despite UCLA’s varsity eight crew coming out victorious against the Women of Troy, USC emerged with the overall triumph, posting first-place finishes in all three other races to capture victory in the dual-meet race by half a point.

A similar series of events manifested in the Pac-12 Championships, where the Trojans crossed the finish line before the Bruins in all races – this time with a varsity eight win included.

With a change in the varsity eight lineup, senior coxswain Sofia Papini hopes to repeat last year’s season-opening victory in Saturday’s race.

“We do have a different lineup than we did last year so we are hoping that brings some new speed with it,” Papini said. “The biggest thing for the varsity eight race is to keep perfecting what we have been working on in the past year.”

On top of modifications to the team’s varsity eight lineup, the blue and gold also welcome a new coach in Chandraratna, who officially took over after a year in the interim role. As associate head coach, Chandraratna helped the second varsity eight team to three consecutive wins against the Trojans, and helped the team rise to No. 14 in the top-20 rankings for the season.

Heading into the new season, Chandraratna emphasized the composure of this year’s team.

“This team has a very steady head on their shoulders, they know how not to get too high or too low,” Chandraratna said. “That’s going to be critical in a long racing season. Having perspective is very important moving forward.”

With 33 underclassmen on this year’s roster, the Bruins are comprised of numerous faces, sophomores who have returned carrying experience on their backs and freshmen who bring elation to their first year of collegiate rowing, according to Papini.

“The underclassmen definitely bring lots of energy and excitement which is very appreciated,” Papini said. “We have a perfect balance – we have the older girls who have the team culture ingrained in them and know the ins and outs of the program and the younger classmen who remind us to always have fun with it.”

Despite an unfavorable conclusion to the Bruins’ 2022 season, there was much excitement after senior port Ellen Ulitsky was selected to compete at the 2022 World Rowing Championships with the USRowing Under 23 Team and redshirt sophomore port/starboard Olivia Hay competed for New Zealand’s U23 team. Both girls will be seen on the waters this season as part of the varsity eight lineup.

UCLA will set this season in motion prioritizing selfless play and generating maximum speed as a team, according to Papini.

“I would say we have this culture ‘I got this, you got this, we got this,’” Papini said. “What’s emphasized most is chasing down the best version of yourself while supporting your teammates to be the best version of themselves and all coming together and finding a higher collective speed than you could ever have as individuals.”

The blue and gold boats hit the water in San Pedro on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. against USC.

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Ira Gorawara
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