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Irish steer west for Lake Natoma Invitational

| Friday, April 10, 2015

The No. 16 Irish departed by plane Thursday morning as they set out on their longest trek of the year to the Lake Natoma Invitational in Folsom, California.

The Lake Natoma Invitational is a two-day regatta featuring a host of teams from across the nation, including Pac-12 hosts and yearly NCAA competitors California and ACC rival Virginia. The team has been preparing for this regatta for two weeks, having kept a regular training schedule save for a short break over the Easter break. The Irish are looking to improve upon their heat times as they reach the halfway point in their spring season.

Junior coxswain Jill Ryan praised the growth of her teammates in recent weeks.

“I think that we are not the same team that raced Virginia in Oak Ridge,” Ryan said. “I think we’ve made a lot of improvements. On our most recent 2k test, we had several girls [set personal records], which I think says a lot about our potential for California.”

Ryan said the Irish squad hopes to rise in the rankings with fast times against crews like No. 3 California and No. 4 Virginia. If the Irish do not win the ACC tournament later this year, they will have to rely on their regular season showings to obtain an at-large bid to the NCAA championship. For that reason, regatta performances such as this weekend’s showing at the Lake Natoma Invitational are vital for the team’s postseason hopes.

The team, however, is confident in its ability to continue improving, according to Ryan.

“This weekend, we just need to come together as a team,” she said. “[We need to] focus on rowing together. I’m feeling really optimistic.

“So far I think the team has done a much better job at racing. We were inexperienced in Tennessee. Having had two weekends under our belt and a lot of good practices, I feel like we’ve gotten to be better, more competitive racers.”

That said, Skorcz also added the team had some things to work on, including some of the more mental aspects of the competition.

“I think we still need to work on getting our blades in the water, being more aggressive and harping the racing mentality,” she said. “[We’re focused on] really throwing it out on the line and not getting intimidated by our competitors. I think we’ll be in a really good place by the end of the season.”

Irish head coach Martin Stone said he had high expectations for the weekend’s events.

“We want to have our best race of the year,” Stone said. “We’re progressively getting better. Practice went well this week — we’ve gotten better overall.”

The distance between Indiana and California does not pose an obstacle to the well-travelled Irish, who have competed in Ohio and Tennessee already this season, Stone said.

“We’re here early enough, we got out early today,” Stone said on Thursday. “We’ll be alright. Travel isn’t an issue. We’ve done this before, so we’ll be good to go.”

Despite the regatta’s formidable attendance list, Stone said he was excited for the opportunity for his team to show their improvements.

“We race very tough competition,” Stone said. “It will be interesting to see how this turns out.”

The Irish will take part in the first of two race days this Saturday in Folsom.

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