March 3, 2003
During her first four years at Tennessee, Head Coach Lisa Glenn has been laying the foundation for a successful program, working to take Lady Vol Rowing from a fledgling undertaking to an established power in the NCAA rowing ranks. Now, with achievements such as two consecutive victories in the Club 8+ at the Head of the Charles and defeats of such perennial rowing powers as Duke and Clemson this fall, Lady Vol Rowing is truly "Emerging" into a highly competitive force at the collegiate level.
"We're at the stage of our program where the student-athletes are able to see that the kind of drive and determination we have had will produce the results they want," Glenn said. "Looking ahead to the spring, I'm excited about some of the indications that I have received from our athletes about where they feel the team can go. It's a matter of taking things one day at a time and maximizing our opportunities."
Tennessee certainly maximized its opportunities during the fall season, earning a total of eight gold medals from four regattas.
"We started the fall in fair shape when the student-athletes returned from summer break," Glenn said. "I knew a lot of work needed to be done to get where we wanted to be. We got down to some diligent training in September and October. I think the team's ability to focus on basic fundamentals and stay tuned into the details that make things work really made a difference this fall."
Several key races during the fall helped further UT's emergence as a group toward becoming competitive at the highest NCAA level. One such race was the Head of the Charles Club 8+ in Boston, at which the Lady Vols claimed victory for the second consecutive year. This accomplishment is made even more impressive since the Head of the Charles rules prohibit any individual from competing in the Club 8+ event after having previously won the race, therefore forcing UT to enter nine newcomers in the event. Additionally, Tennessee faced strong competition in a 59-team field at what is considered one of the largest and most prestigious regattas in the world. UT also had entered a shell in an even more challenging Championship 8+ field that included 47 boats, including teams from both the U.S. and Canadian National Teams. Against this stiff competition, the Lady Vols stroked to a 25th-place finish.
"The Head of the Charles was exciting for us again this year," Glenn said. "The expectations for the Club 8+ event were very high because we had shown we have the capability to win. Knowing the standards that had been set, the new athletes that were entered in that event knew that if they put the right things together, they should be among the top boats. For them to know about these expectations and then to go out and fulfill them helped build their race mentality greatly. In the Championship 8+, the crew didn't race exactly how they wanted to, but their performance was positive in the fact that it allowed them to see that they were in the top 25 at the most competitive event of the fall. I think we could have fared a bit better, but it was a good benchmark for them."
Another landmark race for the Big Orange came in the Championship 8+ at the Head of the Chattahoochee. On the waters of Lake Lanier, Tennessee again faced tremendous competition and placed third behind two boats from the Canadian National Team. In the process, UT defeated crews from traditional top-25 programs Duke and Clemson. The event also benefited the Lady Vols in the respect that it gave them a preview of the site of this season's NCAA Championships.
"After the Championship 8+ race at Boston, we re-focused and set some new standards to meet by the Head of the Chattahoochee," Glenn said. "At the Chattahoochee, we went out and gave a very strong performance. It showed that we were able to set goals and then surpass them. It was good for our team to see that when you take something on and really go after it, it makes a difference. The result allowed us to see that all the hard work we put in can pay off on a concrete level."
While all of the success that the Lady Vols experienced this fall makes a strong statement, Glenn knows that the true proving ground for top programs is at the Lexus Central/South Regional and NCAA Championships.
"The challenge for us now lies in using the fall success as a motivator," Glenn said. "Those accomplishments are in the past, and we must move on to a different focus within our training. We can't take anything for granted, which is a necessary attitude for us in order to achieve more positive results."
Giving Tennessee an edge in achieving more positive results this season are a number of talented student-athletes who have earned some significant honors and rowed UT to some big finishes.
Seniors Kacey Montgomery (Apopka, Fla.) and Sally BeVille (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) are among the experienced rowers who have had a significant impact during their careers thus far. Montgomery has twice earned All-South Region honors from the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA), being named to the first team as a sophomore and second team as a junior. Additionally, Montgomery has excelled in the classroom after garnering two very prestigious accolades last season with the edsouth Lady Vol Scholar-Athlete of the Year award and a Verizon First-Team Academic All-America selection. BeVille is another rower who has excelled on the water and in the classroom, earning CRCA National Scholar-Athlete recognition in addition to being a fixture in UT's Varsity 8+ shell.
Rounding out the Lady Vols' senior class are Kay Logan (Knoxville, Tenn.), Kelly Kraiss (Orlando, Fla.) and Kelly Kravitz (Olympia, Wash.). Logan comes off a season in which she earned second-team All-South Region honors and rowed on the initial UT shell to claim victory at the Head of the Charles. Kraiss has competed at the varsity level since her freshman year and rowed in Tennessee's first Head of the Charles win. Kravitz has rowed primarily with Varsity 4+ shells at UT and claimed gold at the Head of the Tennessee during the fall.
Highlighting Tennessee's younger Varsity 8+ members is a pair of sophomores who both received first-team All-South Region recognition from the CRCA in their initial collegiate seasons. Kaitlin Bargreen (Lake Stevens, Wash.) and Chelsea Pemberton (Jacksonville, Fla.) obviously made an immediate impact for the Lady Vols as freshmen and look to continue that success this year. Judging by the accomplishments of Varsity 8+ shells that the two rowed in during the fall, both student-athletes appear to be right on track.
Two sophomores who began their careers on UT's novice squad now having a significant impact on the varsity level are Melissa DiCerbo (Hixson, Tenn.) and Dana Forbes (Cincinnati, Ohio). Both rowers were members of the Orange and White Championship 8+ that defeated Duke and Clemson at the Head of the Chattahoochee.
A freshman that has proven to be an immediate force for Tennessee's Varsity 8+ is Lauren Wells (London, Ontario, Canada). Wells, along with junior Nicole Bold (Jackson, Miss.), rounds out the rowers in UT's Varsity 8+ boat at the end of the fall season.
Other Lady Vols who should be important contributors in either Varsity 8+ or 2nd Varsity 8+ shells this season include juniors Mary Gruzalski (Oak Ridge, Tenn.), Mary Beth Lewis (Andersonville, Tenn.), Amy McIntosh (Cleveland, Tenn.) and Jessica Shreder (Atlanta, Ga.), and sophomores Marissa Allen (Hendersonville, Tenn.) and McKenzie Craig (Pittsburgh, Pa.). Adding depth for UT as probable members of the Varsity 4+, but who may also step up to 8+ shells, are sophomores Andrea Bagwell (Hendersonville, Tenn.) and Hilary Gilmore (Nashville, Tenn.), and freshmen Ariana Fitzgerald (Alexandria, Va.), Hillary Graber (Bettendorf, Iowa), Lindsey Groves (Winter Park, Fla.) and Lindsay Jones (Evans, Ga.).
A trio of experienced coxswains hope to continue leading Lady Vol shells to the winner's circle. Junior Erin Artz (Woodbridge, Va.) guided UT's Varsity 8+ throughout the fall, including at the Head of the Chattahoochee, where the Orange and White defeated Duke and Clemson. Junior Lizzie Brown (Cincinnati, Ohio) has a résumé that includes guiding UT's victorious Club 8+ shell at the Head of the Charles this fall. Sophomore Jovanna Vick (Pleasant View, Tenn.) has moved up to varsity after being a member of the novice squad last season, and has already led UT to a gold medal in the Championship 4+ at the Head of the Tennessee.
"I'm excited about what this team can do," Glenn said. "As a coaching staff, we must help our athletes maximize practices each day, so that when the races come, we will be able to maximize our performance at them as well."
Looking to the spring, Tennessee kicks off its schedule with three straight dual meets at home. The homestand starts with a contest against Notre Dame on March 15, which will provide a strong test as the Irish have defeated UT each of the last two seasons. Next up will be a March 22 dual against Minnesota, another team that defeated the Lady Vols last season. The third and final meet of the home series will match the Big Orange up against Louisville on March 29. Last season, UT swept all four races in its meet against the Cardinals.
"The three consecutive home races we have in March will give us a good opportunity to execute the details that we have been working on in practice," Glenn said.
Following the three-meet homestand to open the season, the Lady Vols take to the road for two straight competitions. The first event away from Fort Loudoun Lake will take UT to the San Diego Crew Classic on Mission Bay in San Diego, Calif., on April 5. One week later, Tennessee travels east to the G.W. Invitational Crew Classic on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.
"Our travel schedule, which includes competitions such as the San Diego Crew Classic, lets us gain some experience outside of our region and go up against crews we don't normally see," Glenn said. "The G.W. Invitational is another event that provides the opportunity for us to see some teams from other regions. By the time we get to the Lexus Central/Southern Sprints, we will have competed against everyone we need to see. This is a difficult schedule but I believe it will help us reach our goals."
After competing in the Nation's Capital, the Lady Vols' next race is a bit closer to home, as they return to the Volunteer State for the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, April 18-19. UT will then hit the road one more time for the April 27 Clemson Classic on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, before returning to Oak Ridge and Melton Hill Lake for one of the most important events of the season. This event, the Lexus Central/Southern Sprints, matches Tennessee up against 27 teams from the NCAA's Central and South regions on May 17-18. The Lady Vols will be looking to secure a berth to the NCAA Championships, taking place May 30-June 1 on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Ga.
"Our schedule is challenging because we have to define our position every single time," Glenn said. "We are racing talented programs each week. There isn't any competition that will allow us to relax or take it easy, which will be tough because we have to be on our toes every single weekend we compete. We must prepare each week and focus seriously on competition that awaits us."
The Lady Vols hope that the challenging spring schedule which awaits them, combined with the necessary hard work and preparation, will have them "Emerging" as an even greater force when the NCAA Championships arrive.