Sunday, March 05, 2006

2006 Season Preview - Princeton University

As Coach Paul Rassam begins his second year at the helm of the Princeton lightweights, he continues the Tigers' quest to regain the national championship. Princeton has won 5 of the last seven national championships, but the two years they lost were 2004 and 2005. Princeton is out to stop the uprising.

Princeton's season begins in late March as the varsity heads out to California for the Windermere Cup and the freshmen travel to Philadelphia for the Murphy Cup. At Windermere the Tigers will meet Stanford and Radcliffe, among others. Always a good early season regatta that establishes a pecking order for the next couple of races.

After Windermere Bucknell visits Lake Carnegie as the Bison begin working to bring their program into the Big Leagues. Should be a tune-up for Princeton, but watch out if they take Bucknell lightly. After Bucknell is the Knecht Cup, the first of the three lightweight "death matches."

Two weeks after Knecht the Tigers race Georgetown at home, followed the next week by Radcliffe at home. Georgetown will always be dangerous (they beat Wisconsin in a dual race last year) and Radcliffe is the rivalry. I think Radcliffe wants to beat Princeton so badly they can taste it. This rivalry is what rivalries should be - all encompassing. The (wimpy) editors at US News and World Report have had Princeton and Harvard tied for the number one school in the nation for the last few years, and I'm pretty sure both schools have had enough of that. If this race ends in a tie, the only thing we'll hear at the finish line will be two coxswains saying, "Ports to row, starboards to back. We're gonna do this again." After Radcliffe at the end of April comes Sprints in May and IRAs in June. Although Radcliffe is Princeton's natural rival, a few years of defeat at Wisconsin's hands has made any matchup between these two crews a blood feud. The Badgers know Princeton wants a piece of their hide and Wisconsin revels in defeating an Ivy League East Coast crew.

This is a year for Princeton's juniors to make an impact and for the sophomores to push for seats. Depending on what those two classes do, this could be a rebuilding year or it could be a return to dominance. Both the juniors and the sophomores won Sprints as freshmen, so the potential is there. Princeton, as a program, expects excellence and will accept nothing less. Although perhaps the most successful program in the Princeton boathouse over the last several years, recently the lightweights have fallen just short of that expectation, and no more motivation is needed. In a few short weeks we'll begin to see if a return to glory is just around the corner.

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