Louisville Cardinals Win American Athletic Conference Championship in Rowing

Louisville Cardinals Win AAC Rowing ChampionshipLouisville is finally getting the championship recognition they deserve after the 17th-ranked Louisville rowing team had a landmark performance at Sunday's inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship at Lake Mercer sweeping all six grand finals and all six time trials to clinch the first conference title in program history while also earning the first NCAA Championship berth. The Cardinals scored 158 points to earn the league's automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA Rowing Championship on May 30-June 1 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind.

UCF was second in the seven-team championship with 136 points, while Connecticut finished third with 111 points.

Individually, Louisville's Morgan Dunham, Darya Marchanka, Jami Montesano and Hannah Ritter were named All-American Athletic Conference First team, while Elise Valantine, Lucy Wilshier and Andrea Zorn were selected as All-American Athletic Conference Second Team. Louisville head coach Derek Copeland and assistants Sarah McIlduff, Lina Azarova and Kelly Harris were chosen as the Coaching Staff of the Year.

"We have a really good group and they've worked hard to get this," said Copeland. "We try to find women for this team that we think have the ability to go a little bit extra and I think today showed, from top to bottom, the work has really paid off. We're excited about we feel fortunate to have earned our first trip to the NCAA Championship."

After winning all six morning time trials, the Cardinals' first grand final win came in the third varsity four event when the crew of Karina Baldwin (Coxswain), Katie Miller, Victoria McLaren, Maleena Hackbarth and Kelsey Webb finished with a time of 7:51.943 to finish more than 23 seconds ahead of second place Rutgers. The second victory of the day came in the second varsity four when the crew of Annie Pape (coxswain), Emma Melton, Jenny Marler, McKenzie Clifford and Ashleigh Hodge had a time of 7:33.853 to finish more than five seconds clear of second-place UCF.

The third varsity eight boat was the next to win a title as the crew of Tiffany Chea (coxswain), Gabi Biedenharn, Hannah Ruegsegger, Madeleine Chesney, Mary Waldman, Nicole DiTommaso, Lauren DiTommaso, Meredith Price and Josie Stoner was clear of second-place UCF by nearly 10 seconds after finishing with a time of 7:06.013. The fourth victory for Louisville came in the varsity four grand final as the crew of Chiara Ponko (coxswain), Paula Gollnick, Kylie Noltemeyer, Maddy Staubitz and Marissa Thalen had a time of 7:28.307 to defeat runner-up Rutgers.

In the second varsity eight event, Louisville's crew of Sophie St. Martin (coxswain), Hanna Spittel, Lizzie DeVries, Katie Nord, Kara Savegnago, Amy Van Syoc, Kylen Pattermann, Sam Sinnett and Abbie Wade had a time of 6:44.430 to finish more than 15 seconds clear of second-place UCF. And in the final race of the day, the Cardinals' varsity eight crew of Andrea Zorn (coxswain), Elise Valantine, Lucy Wilshier, Morgan Dunham, Amanda Zalno, Darya Marchanka, Cynthia Doyle, Jami Montesano and Hannah Ritter had a time of 6:36.796 to defeat second-place UCF by a margin of more than seven seconds.

The complete field of 22 teams for the 2014 NCAA Rowing Championship will be announced on Tuesday at 5 p.m. by the NCAA.

Portions of this article may contain materials or information provided courtesy of the Louisville Cardinals athletic department.