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Women’s Rowing: Notre Dame wins Big East

Cory Bernard | Monday, May 2, 2011

Granted varsity status in the fall of 1997, Notre Dame has quickly established itself as a top program. The Irish further cemented their standing as the Big East’s top team Sunday, winning their eighth consecutive conference title, a feat no current Big East team in any sport can match.

Irish coach Martin Stone took over the program in its first year and has since built a nationally recognized program. However, he said the culture of the university and the athletes it attracts contributes much more to Notre Dame’s success than the efforts of the coaches.

“Notre Dame is such a great school,” Stone said. “Just the caliber of the university and its commitment to athletics immediately put us ahead [of other Big East universities]. Also, the individual athletes that come to Notre Dame and their daily dedication matters a lot. Their performance, much more than that of the coaching staff, determines our success.”

Held on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., the championship was a tight competition between the first-place Irish and second-place Louisville. The Cardinals’ varsity eight boat claimed the Big East crown with a time of 6:40.00, beating Notre Dame by 2.8 seconds. However, the Irish won the varsity four and the first and second varsity eight races.

Coxed by freshman Christa Dines and rounded out by junior Ching Ting Hwang and freshmen Kiersten Dehaven, Courtney Gaberino and Teresa Rubinger, the varsity four crew beat first seed Louisville by nearly eight seconds. Stone said many members of his team turned in good performances.

“There was some tight racing out there today,” he said. “Everybody contributed — a lot of people stepped up.”

Finishing first in three of the five scoring events, the Irish earned 114 points, besting Louisville’s 109. Georgetown, the only other school to win a scoring event, finished third with 95 points. The Hoyas took the second varsity four race.

Several Notre Dame rowers also took home individual awards. Seniors Carol Ann Michel and Stephanie Gretsch and freshman Molly Bruggeman were named to the all-Big East first team. Seniors Emily Crosby and Genevieve Malone and sophomore Stephanie O’Neill made the second team.

Stone said his rowers appreciate the individual recognition, but focus more on team success.

“I would think they enjoy the award,” he said. “The team accomplishments are much more important to our team, though. We don’t revel as much in individual achievements.”

The all-Big East selections allow the winning program no more than six spots on the two teams. Stone said he believes his squad features many all-Big East performers that could not be named to either team.

“We have a lot of kids who put in the effort and could be on the first team,” he said. “There are a bunch of kids who are all-Big East in my mind.”

Notre Dame hopes to earn its first NCAA berth since 2007 when it finished 12th. The Irish race once more against Clemson and Virginia May 15 before the NCAA selection committee chooses the field.