Feb. 27, 2006
The UCLA women's rowing team will look to continue to build power and speed in 2006. Based on last year's performances, it is clear that the team is on the right track toward achieving national prominence. Although the team lost eight seniors to graduation, younger rowers have come forward to fill their shoes.
The 2006 season promises to be full of new challenges and coach Amy Fuller Kearney is ready for the competition. "It definitely brings unique challenges to lose the experience of a large senior class," explains Fuller Kearney, "but we are really excited about the freshmen we have coming in and we are very optimistic that we can continue to improve our level."
"Our goals are to keep building strength, endurance and depth," says Fuller Kearney. "After reaching 15th in the nation in 2005, we must set our sights higher and reach for a national championship. We know it won't happen overnight, but that's what we are here to do, and it's what everyone in this program works for every day."
Leading the squad is fifth-year coach Amy Fuller Kearney, along with assistant coaches Bill Zack and newcomer Dawn Regan. The addition of Regan to the coaching staff adds a new dimension to the team. As a former Bruin rower, Regan is familiar with the program and has been an exciting addition. Fuller Kearney notes that "it is really rewarding to have somebody who came from this program and understands what our goals are and has been a part of it. She knows the work ethic and what we require, so she has been a great fit."
For the 2006 season, UCLA boasts 19 returning athletes, including 10 upperclassmen and 9 returning novices.
As one of three seniors, Liz Pallas-Jacobs brings the leadership and experience crucial to the team's success. She has been in the program for four years and competed with the Junior National Team. "I'm proud of what she's done because she's really helped to bring this program to the forefront nationally," says Fuller Kearney. "She's tenacious and dedicated and has been through every step of the program with us."
Also returning from last year's varsity eight are Jessica Fritz, Elizabeth Lee, and Erin Haggerty. Coach Fuller Kearney is looking forward to working with these rowers, adding that they "bring a high level of experience and a good training ethic." After competing at the NCAAs last year, "they know what they are working for now and it just pushes them harder."
Additionally, rowers from last year's second varsity and varsity four squads, including Leah Wachtel, Erin Rice, Patricia Dudziec, and Jaclyn Roewe, will have a great impact on the team in 2006. UCLA's second varsity was very successful last year, finishing second in the Pac-10. Fuller Kearney points out that "all of them know what it takes to beat the top programs. Last year we proved to be competitive and now the expectation is to be in every race to win it."
The Bruins are fortunate to have great drivers and motivators in coxswains Kirsten Potenza and Megan McQuown. "Each year I am impressed with the improvements in the coxswain seat," states Fuller Kearney. "Kirsten and Megan, both juniors, really bring a lot of confidence and leadership to the crews. From a coach's perspective, knowledgeable coxswains make every day more efficient."
Rounding out the list of returnees is Bailey Blosser, Clara Cartwright, Maida Habibovic, Elizabeth Herron, Alexis Kalionzes, Audrey Kuo, Sarah Lombardo, and Brittany Merchant. Each of these athletes will add depth and a desire to fill seats in the NCAA events. "Returning athletes bring a higher competitive level to the table. They have strong fitness from the work they have done in previous years and a clear understanding of what they are working towards. They are crucial to our success," states Fuller Kearney.
The captains this year, as voted by the team, are Pallas-Jacobs, Rice, and Jessica Holt. "They have all shown to be gracious people as well as fierce competitors so they earn a lot of respect from their teammates," observes Fuller Kearney.
15 freshmen rowers have been recruited to compete for UCLA in 2006. According to Fuller Kearney, "the strength of our freshman class this year is their attitude. They are all passionate about improving and are willing to put in the time and effort that it takes to move the program forward."
Two freshmen who are pushing to contribute to the gold squad (V and 2V) this season are Vanessa Teff and Alexandra Howard. "Teff comes to us from the Junior National Team and she is doing an amazing job stepping into this program and motivating people around her to reach for higher goals," says Fuller Kearney. She also notes that "Howard has brought depth to the gold squad which is what we really need after graduating eight seniors last year."
Rounding out the recruits are Meleana Carr, Candace Ferguson, Laura Garnett, Bree Hemingway, Victoria Kaso, Kerry Kilduff, Larisa Pender-Healy, Sheerin Salimi, Chanel Suares, Katie Virk, and Katja Wanberg. Developing these athletes into collegiate competitors takes time although Fuller Kearney notes that "there will potentially be more out of the group who will work their way up to the gold squad and they seem to be very excited about reaching their potential."
The 2006 Season
Fuller Kearney points out that "we have a really competitive schedule this year because in order to reach our potential, we need to face top competitors nationally. It does make for a few hard weeks in the middle of the racing season, but it definitely paid off for us last year and we're hoping it will pay off again this year." Fuller Kearney adds that "we are ready to work towards a national championship and we are going to train every day knowing that we want to win a national title in the near future."