BUFFALO, NY - Visiting the last two Aberdeen Dad Vail Regattas, the women of the University at Buffalo managed to outwit history — twice.
First, in 2009, the Bulls not only won the women's point trophy, but won the overall team point trophy with a score provided solely by the women's team — a stunning feat.
Then, in 2010, coach Rudy Wieler's crew became the first program in Dad Vail history to capture the Jack and Nancy Seitz Trophy in three consecutive years as women's point champion.
So now what's in-store for the 2011 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta Presented by Coca-Cola? Well, let's say this, if Buffalo manages to somehow win it's fourth straight Seitz Trophy, it would supplant all previous achievements.
"I think we'll be competitive and I think we've got a shot," said Wieler, before erring on the side of caution by mentioning, "I don't think I'm maybe as confident as I was last year, but part of that is because we had raced a lot more at this point last year."
The other reason for tapered expectations is Buffalo's across-the-board youth. The Bulls are more like calfs this years. Wieler's second varsity eight boat has two freshmen and three sophomores and two members of the varsity four are sophomores. The varsity heavyweight eight, meanwhile, has three freshmen and three sophomores, but, at the same time, features five rowers from last year's Aberdeen Dad Vail JV varsity eight winning boat.
"Of our top 20 seats, we have 13 girls that are freshmen or sophomores," Wieler said. "This is my youngest crew I've coached in terms of experience."
With experience comes high expectations and that was Buffalo's circumstance the past few years. In 2011, though, the Bulls' youthfulness has placed question marks at the end of every expectation.
Can Buffalo piece together enough young talent to approach last year's brilliant showing of six boats in Dad Vail's grand finals? Can the women from last year's JV heavyweight eight championship step up to compete in the varsity eight? Can the lightweight eight, a strong crew by Wieler's measure, not only reach the grand finals, but also medal? And, of course, can the Buffalo women really capture a fourth straight Seitz Trophy after a drastic roster overhaul?
Wieler, as is his style, is an optimist. He watched his crew finish second behind Northeastern in the highly competitive Colonial Athletic Association team championships last weekend. Prior to that, the crew's varsity eight and second eight beat Grand Valley State in a race hosted by the University of Michigan. That came just a week after Grand Valley topped Buffalo to win the Knecht Cup.
"We have a much younger team this year, but I've been encouraged by our results," Wieler said. "We do have a young squad, but when you're young, with every weekend comes a new epiphany ... a new happening."
Another team championship at the Aberdeen would be more than an epiphany for Buffalo's women's team. It would be history. Again.
Written by Brendan F. Quinn, Editorial Writer for the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee
Fans can follow this year's Dad Vail Regatta live online at www.espn3.com.