Coach Lisa Glenn
March 9, 2007
Building the Best has been an ongoing project for UT head coach Lisa Glenn, who has served as construction manager for the program over the past eight seasons. The results of "Building the Best" has been "Bringing Together the Best," as evidenced by Tennessee hosting this year's NCAA Championships and, more specifically, bringing together global talents to bolster the building project.
Hosting the NCAA Championships on Tennessee waters puts the Lady Vol rowing team in unique company, as only three other women's teams have hosted a national championship event: basketball with the Final Four in 1990, cross country with the 1990 championships, and track and field, which has done it on three occasions (1995 being the latest). This May, the rowing team joins that exclusive club as UT invites the nation to Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the 2007 NCAA Rowing Championships. Not only has Glenn undertaken the task of building a team, she has also helped build on Tennessee's national reputation in another sport. For four consecutive years, the Orange and White of Tennessee have been seen at the championship event, with last year's squad making its full-team debut at the regatta.
From the 25 people that traveled to West Windsor, N.J., for last year's NCAAs, only five have departed the program. With the depth returning from a year ago, expectations are high once again that the home partisans will have a full team to cheer on the nation's biggest stage.
"The experience this years' squad brings to the season makes the entire process feel a bit different," said three-time Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association South Region Coach of the Year Glenn. "There is a perspective gained through race experience that no amount of discussion can create. It's about living it. I am really enjoying the fact that most of this team has at least one reference point for the training and preparation we are doing for the spring. We are able to spend less time explaining and more time refining what we are doing, which is obviously more efficient."
This season, Glenn has identified 13 athletes ready now to try and secure a spot in the top Varsity Eight shell out of the gate. Six of those ended the year in that same event at the NCAA Championships, where they narrowly missed out on the semifinals before taking home a win in the "C" final. Seniors Rachel Mayberry and Renee Brittle, juniors Jessica Ayers, Nina Dobratz and Krista Gearing and sophomore Erin-Monique Shelton all will be looking to keep their seats in the top shell. Three of those six captured CRCA All-South Region accolades last spring, while Shelton became the program's fifth All-American.
With that strong presence back to lead the way, another seven will try to push that crew and themselves to take a spot on that crew. Among the returnees who are looking to step up include senior Heather Hill, juniors Mary Jones and Leah Smelser and sophomores Kate Brownlee, Caroline Howell and Alex Shishkov. Hill, Jones, Shishkov and Smelser completed the year in the Second Eights crew at nationals, while Brownlee and Howell helped power the Fours group at the final meet.
One newcomer has already gotten the attention of Glenn for a spot in the top crew. Freshman Mary Dreusike, a native of Huntington Station, N.Y., had a very productive fall for the Lady Vols. She was one of three freshman rowers in the Club 8+ winners at the world-renowned Head of the Charles this fall. She also helped a crew to a silver medal in her first collegiate race at the Chattanooga Head Race.
But as last year showed, no one should get too comfortable in their seats. Glenn utilized some erg training later in the year to tweak her line-ups before the Aramark Sprints, the regional championship for both the central and south areas. So even if they don't start the year in the top Varsity 8+, they could still claim a seat there by the end of the season.
The Second Eights crew will be comprised of some of those mentioned previously as well as a group of experienced rowers back at Rocky Top. Seniors Kristen Galloway, Katrina von Peters and Sarah Hutcheson top this group. Both Galloway and Hutcheson have experience in UT's top crew at the NCAA meet. Hutcheson traveled with the team in 2004 as a freshman to Sacramento, Calif., while Galloway had a seat in last year's shell. The Chattanooga native von Peters also has experience in big meets, helping last year's Varsity 4+ crew at the championship regatta and the Tennessee-Chattanooga club team's Four at the Dad Vail Regatta in 2005.
Three juniors are also vying for spots in the second Varsity 8+, including returning competitor Genevieve Collins, who spent the summer honing her skills at the USRowing Mideast Development Camp. Collins is once again looking to claim a spot in the 2V8+ along with classmates Marisa Mohan and Kendra Warren. Last year's alternates at the NCAA Championships, both Mohan and Warren have made great strides in winter training to try to move their way up the ladder on the roster.
One newcomer is also vying for a spot in that Second Eights boat. Freshman Kate Snider has been working hard since her arrival from Ramona, Calif., to try and secure a spot in one of the big boats. She was a part of UT's fourth gold-winning Club 8+ group at the Head of the Charles in the past six years.
The people that do not make the Second Eight will vie for spots in the one of the Varsity 4+ crews along with senior Katie Payne and varsity newcomers Joycelyn Campbell, Danielle Hmielewski and Brittany Sehring. Payne has worked hard to try to contribute to the team this spring. Her perseverance last spring helped the team when she helped power the Open 4+ crew to a silver medal at the Aramark Sprints. Hmielewski, a junior rising novice, worked last spring in the second Varsity 4+ crew, assisting them to wins over Southern California. Campbell spent most of her time with the Novice 8+ that ranked seventh at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA) Championships. Sehring is a newcomer from Alpharetta, Ga., who is looking to gain strength and experience in her first year in Knoxville. Glenn has also identified a couple of novices that could contribute this spring as well. Coxswain Sydney Newman and rower Erin Gray could contribute this spring on the varsity squad.
The coxswain group has a great mix of experience and youth that will be a big benefit to the program this season. Two of Tennessee's most experienced coxswains in history are back for the spring. Seniors Molly Oellerich and Stephanie Davis have both led crews at the NCAA Championships and know what it takes to get the best out of each crew they command. Davis is competing to take back the spot she held most of last spring in the First Eights shell, while Oellerich is looking to continue her work with the second Varsity 8+ group.
The newcomers to the group have gained a lot of time on the water already in their short time with the varsity program. Sophomore Pam Harder has the most collegiate experience, as she led UT's Open 4+ shell to a silver medal at last year's Aramark Sprints. Harder is battling with Oellerich for time in the 2V8+. Freshmen Katie Ross and Roshauna Singh both have experience at the interscholastic level and will try to claim one of the coxswains' seats this spring. Ross also has a Head of the Charles gold medal in her possession after leading UT's Club 8+ entrant to a win in the fall.
The spring campaign will once again be a challenging one for the Lady Vols, as they will toe the line with some of the best crews in the country again this season. They open the schedule with back-to-back meets on the home waters of Fort Loudoun Lake, scrimmaging against Minnesota and Notre Dame before officially christening the season against Louisville a week later on March 24.
From there, the Orange and White will load up the trailer and travel to Columbus, Ohio, where last year's Aramark Cup winners Ohio State await. UT will also face off in a dual meet against another opponent that has not been determined at press time.
UT's annual trek across the country happens on April 14-15, as the Lady Vols take part in the Windermere Real Estate Regatta in Redwood City, Calif. The Big Orange will take on up to four Pacific-10 Conference squads over the two days of competition on Redwood Shores Lagoon, which is just north of the campus of host Stanford University.
Tennessee will once again have a chance to make its presence known at the SIRA Championships in Oak Ridge on April 21-22. After that, the regular season comes to a close when UT takes on one of the most storied programs in NCAA rowing history. The Lady Vols will go to the line against four-time NCAA champion Brown along with Yale on April 28 in Derby, Ct.
After a two-week break, the contingent from Rocky Top will once again take on the best from the central and south regions at the Aramark Sprints, where the orange-clad rowers will try to defend their 2006 NCAA South Region crown on the familiar waters of Melton Hill Lake. Then comes the ultimate meet of the year, as Tennessee hopes to be one of the 12 teams competing for a national title at the 2007 NCAA Rowing Championships, held on May 25-27 in Oak Ridge.