Women’s Rowing is worth the commitment, early mornings



Larry Flynn

Most freshmen arrive at Villanova “undecided,” not only in their academic field of study, but also in what clubs and on-campus groups they wish to join. Some join “The Villanovan,” others “Go Greek,” and still others make the decision Gabby DeLorenzo made four years ago.

DeLorenzo wanted to join a rowing team in high school, but a hectic schedule forced her to place this dream on the back-burner. When she saw posters at Villanova to walk-on to the women’s rowing team, DeLorenzo felt compelled to tryout.

“I just wanted to be active on campus, join a team, and work out,” she said. 

Four years later, and DeLorenzo is a coxswain and senior co-captain of the women’s rowing team along with rower Caroline McCaughey. After hundreds of early mornings together, this dynamic duo is leading one of the most competitive rowing teams in the school’s history.

McCaughey had a different route to discover her love for rowing. She began rowing competitively at the tender age of 12, and has realized the reward of her favorite sport as she enters her senior season at Villanova. 

Other than the cliché, but true, lessons of commitment, dedication, and time management, McCaughey says that she has learned valuable interpersonal communications skills from joining the team.

“Your boat can have the fastest people, but can go slow if your personalities don’t mesh,” McCaughey said. “You learn a lot about working with other people and learning to be understanding of their habits.”

Both co-captains have encouraged all girls at the university to walk-on to the rowing team if they want the experience of a lifetime. 

“It’s one of the easiest sports to pick up, which is why we get so many walk-ons,” McCaughey said. 

Perhaps even more valuable than the physical activity itself are the additional benefits of being on a D1 team at Villanova. Academic support, tutoring services, and community service are three of the most valuable tools rowers can use to improve their academic and personal lives. 

Women’s Rowing utilizes these programs well, ranking second highest in GPA among athletics at Villanova with majors ranging from astrophysics to nursing to business.

“A lot of people struggle deciding whether to do rowing or join a sorority,” McCaughey said. “My personal opinion is that you get the friendships from rowing that you get from being in a sorority because we are with each other constantly.”

“Anyone should join if they want to have a group of awesome girls to bond with,” DeLorenzo added. “If you’re on a sports team in high school, rowing is a great way to stay in shape.”

Indeed, there may not be a sport as rigorous as rowing. The rower’s day begins on dewy mornings before the sunrise, at 5:15 to be exact, where the team packs a bus and prepares for their workout. As long as the weather permits, the team will be on the river rowing. 

Although she’s a self-proclaimed “morning person,” McCaughey said it is still difficult to get up so early. 

“It’s so early that you’re not awake enough or sane enough to realize what you’re doing,” McCaughey said with a laugh. “You trick yourself into being okay with it. It gets a lot easier the more you do it.”

Part of this training includes a spring break bonding trip to Florida where, according to DeLorenzo, the girls bond and partake in strenuous, daily workouts on the water.

This year, the team will try out a new schedule where they practice in the afternoons on Friday, one of the small changes under the regime of a new head coach.

Carissa Adams will be replacing the legendary coach Jack St. Clair this year. 

A former assistant at Villanova and an award-winning coach at UC Davis, Adams wants to improve the program down to minute day-to-day details, according to DeLorenzo.

The rowers are thrilled to learn from Adams, as both captains called her “an excellent communicator.”

“She’s done a lot with the UC Davis team so we are excited to see where we can take our team with her,” McCaughey said.

The expectations are sky-high for the Wildcats this year, who will participate in three races this fall, including the legendary Head of the Charles race in Boston. 

According to McCaughey, one of the team’s goals is to medal in this historic race.

No matter what happens in either the fall or spring, the women’s rowing team promises to offer a rewarding experience and life-long friendships to interested  walk-ons.

“The rowing team is a support system I can fall back on,” DeLorenzo said. “It’s like another family. You can join a lot of things on campus, but it’s hard to bond with people like you do in rowing.”