March 27, 2014
Head coach Derek Copeland talks with the Cardinals at the G. Garvin Brown III Rowing Center prior to a morning training session.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Following a week off from competition, the 16th-ranked Louisville rowing team will travel across the country for the Pac-12 Challenge on Saturday and Sunday in Redwood Shores, Calif.
Louisville, which opened the spring on March 15-16 at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational, is expected to compete against No. 6 USC, 13th-ranked and event host Stanford and No. 18 Clemson in the two-day event at Redwood Shores Lagoon. It will mark the Cardinals' first competition in the state of California since the SoCal Challenge in 2012.
"As a head coach, I've never taken a team to the west coast, so this is something I wanted to do in order to prepare myself and our athletes for the years ahead as Sacramento will host the 2015 and 2016 NCAA Championships," said Louisville's second year head coach Derek Copeland. "We had a chance to compete in several different west coast events this season and we chose this one because of the timing in our schedule. We're excited for this test and for the chance to compete against strong competition again this week."
Before those future championships arrive on the horizon, the Louisville rowing program's more immediate goal is preparing and qualifying for this year's NCAA Championship in Indianapolis. With two chances at earning the program's first ever NCAA Championship berth by either winning the American Athletic Conference title and earning the league's automatic bid or by receiving an at-large invitation, the focus for the Cardinals is on earning as many qualify performances as possible during the next eight weeks.
"The goal for this team is to be fast enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship with or without earning the automatic qualifier as the conference champion," Copeland explained. "We're not working every day with the mindset of simply relying on winning the automatic qualifier. Instead, we're working to be in the hunt as one of the top teams in the nation and to put ourselves in a position to receive an invitation for the NCAA Championship."
This week, the Cardinals will have varsity eight, second varsity eight, varsity four and second varsity four crews competing in Redwood Shores. And while the NCAA Championships consist of only the varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four events, the additional varsity four crew is essential in adding depth throughout the season as well as providing additional experienced rowers as the Cardinals look to be as fast as possible on the water.
At No. 16, Louisville enters this week's competition as the only American Conference program in the preseason USRowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Division I poll released earlier this week. Having already earned finishes ahead of No. 20 Duke and Michigan State (receiving votes), the Cardinals are scheduled to race three more ranked foes at the Pac-12 Challenge giving them more chances to improve their positioning for the NCAA Championships later this spring.
As the Cardinals' top four crews compete in California, the remaining members of the team will stay in Louisville training for the next event, the Big Ten Challenge on April 12 in Iowa City, Iowa.