March 4, 2004
Los Angeles - In only its third season as an NCAA sport, UCLA Women's Rowing is well on its way toward re-establishing itself as one of the premier rowing programs in the nation. Leading the Bruins on this journey is third year head coach Amy Fuller, along with assistant coaches Bill Zack and Guillermo Lemus. They return 16 to the varsity squad this season and reload with 23 novices for a year characterized by expanded growth.
"This is still definitely a year of building and development," said Fuller. "In our third year, what we're seeing is that there is more team depth and a more solid group throughout. It's nice because we can go out on the water and have competitive pieces with all of the boats."
The program's recruiting has also seen expansion. Although UCLA will always be a strong advocate for walk-ons, this is the first season that the majority of the novice class was recruited off campus. The Bruins were awarded two more scholarships this season, for a total of four, and at least two more scholarships will be awarded next year.
"I'm really excited for this year and even more excited for next year," said Fuller. "We have a great recruiting class coming in, and as long as we can keep the freshmen and get them excited to come back and be contributors on the varsity squad, we're going to keep moving in the right direction."
Last season, the groundwork was set and certain standards were placed. This season, the team set standards for performance. The Bruins have the necessary resources to meet the challenge, and with continuous additions to the boathouse, UCLA is creating a fleet that rivals any university in the country.
The UCLA coaching staff is marked by many years of rowing and coaching experience. Returning for her third season at the helm of the UCLA women's rowing team is head coach Amy Fuller. Fuller brings over 10 years of coaching experience as well as several years of national and international rowing into the program.
"Our coaches offer a lot of top-end experience in the knowledge and understanding of the sport," said Fuller. "We are here to teach the fundamentals and theories of rowing from our viewpoint and the team approach."
Assistant coach Bill Zack also returns for his second season with the team. Zack has had several years of coaching and administrative experience within the sport. He is also a former U.S Rowing Women's Junior National Team Development Camp coach. Upon his arrival, Zack wasted no time in developing the UCLA novice eight into Pac-10 champions. As the primary recruiter for UCLA women's rowing, Zack has landed some of California's top recruits to ensure the future success of the program.
"Bill has incredible leadership and organizational and management skills, as well as a plethora of rowing knowledge and many insightful anecdotes," stated Fuller. "With Coach Zack at the helm of recruiting and development, we are certain to find some of the top rowers in the country representing UCLA at the NCAA Championships in the near future."
Zack stated, "Because of our experience, our rowers are essentially trained with the same techniques and physiology as the National team and the Olympic team. It's exciting for the rowers that are here, as well as for the rowers that will come."
Returning for his third season is assistant coach Guillermo Lemus. Lemus brings several years of experience coaching junior, collegiate and master's programs. In addition to developing the Bruin walk-ons, Lemus is primarily responsible for overseeing the UCLA Boathouse facility.
"In his third year, Coach Lemus continues to be a team favorite," said Fuller. "His positive attitude and love of rowing are contagious. He is amazing with 'first time rowers'. Guillermo couldn't be better suited for his role of walk-on development coach because of his patience, determination and passion for the sport. He enjoys having a hand in turning non-rowers into UCLA Bruin Rowers, and his input and perspective are also greatly appreciated by the varsity squad."
Joining the UCLA women's rowing team for his first season is volunteer assistant coach MIchael Chen. Chen rowed four years with the men's rowing program at UC Irvine, where he graduated in 2003.
"We are very grateful for the volunteer efforts of first year UCLA Medical Student MIchael Chen," stated Fuller. "We could not field such a large squad or have the ability to give walk-on athletes opportunities on this team if he wasn't willing to give so generously of his time. Michael is ready and willing to coach any boat, any time. His presence assures that everyone on the team gets the attention and feedback they deserve."
UCLA returns 16 letterwinners this season, including 12 from the varsity squad, three from the novice squad and a returning novice from the 2002 season.
Entering the season, the varsity lineups remain unclear, but Coach Fuller will select the top 16 regardless of their year in school. With close competition within the varsity squad, every rower is vying for a spot on the varsity boat.
"Five seats in the varsity eight are probably filled," said Fuller, "but quite a few individuals in the second varsity eight are looking to make the step up. Many of them have the ability to sit up in the varsity boat, so it's great to see competition within the team because that makes everyone better."
Leading the team as captains for the second consecutive year are Irene Condella and Monica Grova. Condella, a Pac-10 All-Conference selection and the team's Most Valuable Oarswoman in 2002, returns for her senior season.
"Irene has done a great job in elevating her level," stated Fuller. "She has good power-to-pound ratio, and she's looking to get a seat in the varsity eight once again." Grova, who returns for her third season with the UCLA women's rowing team, has emerged as a definitive team leader.
"Monica possesses many qualities we look for in a rower," said Fuller. "She has the mental toughness, a good erg score and great leadership. She is a team captain and just a solid rower."
In the stern pair of the varsity eight, junior Jessica Rogers and sophomore Liz Pallas-Jacobs will likely retain their seats from the fall season. Rogers was the stroke in the fall and at the close of last season, and Pallas-Jacobs, referred to as PJ, will once again be a force in the varsity boat after earning a spot as a freshman.
"Jessica and PJ are in the stern pair of the varsity eight right now," said Fuller. "Jessica has a natural boat feel and an excellent rhythm. She's really focused on getting her erg score down where it needs to be.
"PJ is one my best pair rowers right now. She is more of a quiet leader, but she has earned a lot of respect from the team."
Senior Dawn Regan and junior Elizabeth Felter also return this season after competing in the varsity boat last year. Regan returns after competing this summer with the Vesper Boat Club, earning two bronze medals at the USRowing Nationals and gold at the Canadian Henley. Felter, who rowed in the bow pair last season, is consistently one of the program's more conditioned athletes. She looks to earn a seat in the varsity boat once again.
"Dawn is a staple to the team," said Fuller. "She had a great summer competing with some of the top collegiate rowers in the country, and she has brought a new outlook and understanding to the team. She is really not satisfied with anything but her best. "Elizabeth has always been a boat mover. She is fiercely competitive and won't let obstacles stand in her way. She'll really push to get in that varsity boat."
Earning significant time in the varsity boat this season is junior Kristin Bixel. Bixel, in her second season with the program, returns to the team after a successful novice campaign.
"Kristin is one of the best surprises I have this year," said Fuller. "She trained very hard over the summer, and now she's earned a seat in the varsity eight. She's got an erg score, great technique and really good boat feel."
Juniors Lauren Hamann and Kelsey Hicks have also earned some time practicing in the varsity boat. Hamann competed with the second varsity eight last season and is vying for a spot in the varsity eight. Hicks returns for her second season after taking a year off, but she has already established herself as a competitor for a seat in the varsity boat.
"Lauren is having a great year," stated Fuller. "She's more confident, and she's improved her technique. She will be a real force in the second varsity eight with the possibility of stepping up to the varsity boat.
"Kelsey is excited to be back. She has a lot of potential, and her forte is to improve everyday."
Junior Emina Ong is the only returning varsity coxswain. Last season, she earned the coxing duties in the varsity eight, and she's looking to lead the varsity boat again this year.
"Emina learned to cox as a freshman and has built confidence every year," said Fuller. "She is a very smart individual and a quick learner. Her great attitude translates into effective leadership."
Returning from the second varsity eight last season are juniors Melanie Salter and Kristina Tritsch. Salter competes in her second season with UCLA but has rowed competitively for the past six years. Through her commitment to the sport, she established great fundamentals and solid mechanics. Tritsch, starting her third year with the program, has made steady improvements and finds herself among the top 16.
"Melanie has made some great technical improvements this year," said Fuller. "She's been rowing for a long time, so those improvements don't necessarily come too easily. Melanie is an athlete who can see and think on the water. She doesn't waste strokes, and she does great in any seat.
"Kristina really adds depth to the team. She is very committed and thorough, and she's done a great job in understanding what exactly she needs to do on and off the water." Also returning from the varsity squad is senior Katie Larivey. Larivey has tremendous dedication to the program, and she looks to make a contribution during her final season.
"Last year was difficult for Katie," said Fuller. "She made a big decision to come back this season, and she is really surprising herself. She keeps a positive attitude and focuses on her own improvements. She is definitely vying for a spot in the second varsity eight."
Sophomores Lora Batina and Shannon Packer move up to the varsity squad this season after strong performances in the novice boat. After capturing the Pac-10 novice eight championship last season, Batina and Packer look to continue that success with the varsity squad.
"Lora is very confident," stated Fuller. "She's a competitor, and she's developing a good power-to-pound ratio. She's really excited to represent UCLA and be a part of this elite group of student-athletes.
"I'm really happy Shannon came back this year. She was in the Pac-10 championship boat last year, so she knows what it takes to win. She fights for every seat and will be a great contributor to the second varsity eight."
Utilizing a redshirt season is sophomore Christianne Bengard. As a freshman, Bengard earned a seat in the varsity eight and had the team's fastest 2000m erg score. She looks to return to the varsity squad next season.
For the 23 novices entering the season, it will be a challenge to match the performance of the previous novice class. Success, however, is not necessarily measured by a number of victories but by the future contributions to the varsity squad.
"I would never try to determine the success of the season by race results," said coach Zack, "but how much they have learned and the skill they will contribute to the varsity level the next year."
Four of the novices will likely contribute to the varsity squad this season: Jessica Fritz, Lexi Harmon, Lauren Lorman and Leah Wachtel. Fritz, Harmon, and Wachtel are in contention to be among the top 16, and Lorman is looking to fill the void at coxswain.
This season, UCLA brought in its first major recruiting class. The Bruins also added a few walk-ons, but the difference between this season and last season is that the novices understand their role.
"We do our best to educate our novices and our recruits about the challenges they are going to face and the differences between the high school and collegiate level," stated Fuller. "When you come to UCLA as a freshman, you're most likely not a starter. You're still developing, and you have a long way to go before you're ready to compete against the top collegiate athletes in the country."
Rowing, unlike other sports, is unique in that first-year rowers have the opportunity to race as novices, and for the 23 Bruins on the novice squad, this season is primarily about development and commitment.