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UMass rowing returns home for the first time this spring season

(The UMass Rowing team during the Homecoming Parade. Bryn Rothschild-Shea/Daily Collegian)

(The UMass Rowing team during the Homecoming Parade. Bryn Rothschild-Shea/Daily Collegian)

Five extra weeks and two relocated events later, the Massachusetts rowing team is finally returning home.

UMass will face the University of Connecticut on Thursday in its first home race of the year in an all-day event, which will take place in Hadley. The Minutewomen were unable to practice in the Connecticut River throughout most of the spring due to floating chunks of ice and flooding because of the harsh winter weather.

“We were able to do most of our winter training at home, with a few days spent in Philadelphia,” said UMass coach Jim Dietz. “Still, it was tough not having time in the water because that’s where you are able to gauge the cohesion of your team.”

The Minutewomen competed at the Knecht Cup finals Sunday, securing seven medals in total and continuing to add onto an impressive start to the season despite its unusual start. UMass had all 11 of its boats compete in their respective grand finale races, with each boat managing to finish in the top five.

“We looked very strong early on in the competition. There were 35 different schools competing at this event, and we managed to have each of our boats make the finals which was impressive,” Dietz said.

The most notable result of the day was the Women’s Varsity Pair race. The Minutewomen swept the podium, claiming gold, silver and bronze for the event.

“This past weekend was the best showing for our squad all season, and we’re looking to be peaking at the right time,” said Dietz.

This is one of Dietz’s youngest teams in history, yet he claims it’s also his strongest group of girls. UMass has 40 underclassmen on its roster.

According to Dietz, freshman Aiste Balciunaite has been a bright spot for the team, showing production and maturity well beyond her years.

UMass has managed to claim top results at nearly all of its competitions on the year, but Dietz claims this time in the season is more about building chemistry.

“We haven’t had a lot of time to practice due to poor weather conditions, so right now we’re using our events to test out different combinations, and find which groups of girls can keep up the rhythm and tempo that we’re looking for,” Dietz said.

Looking further toward this weekend, an important showdown with Brown, Northeastern and Boston University awaits the Minutewomen Saturday.

“These are really good squads we’re talking about here; they row with composure and always manage to find consistency within their squads, so our team is preparing diligently for this weekend,” Dietz said.

The events Thursday and Saturday are the only two events remaining before UMass is scheduled to compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference rowing championships, which is scheduled for May 2. The Minutewomen will be the top seed in the event.

UMass holds the top seed for the Varsity 8 race, as well as the second Varsity 8 and the Varsity 4.

“This is the goal that we have worked for all season,” Dietz said. “Winning the events that we have competed in already were good for the team, but the definitive achievement will be to win the A-10 Conference and punch our ticket to the NCAA finals.”

Boats will launch for Thursday’s meet against UConn at 8:15 a.m.

Christopher Martinez can be reached at cmart0@umass.edu.

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