Kevin Sauer knows what a national championship rowing team looks like. He's coached two of them in the past three years at Virginia.
And Sauer says his 2013 team is rounding into shape, heading into this weekend's UVa Invitational at Lake Monticello.
"Honestly, yeah. We're about where I thought we might be," Sauer said this week. "And I think we can get better. And if we get better, then I think we have a shot to compete for the national title again. But we've got to get better."
Virginia's Varsity Eight, the team's top boat, is coming off a big performance at last weekend's Clemson Invitational. The boat won three races over the weekend, beating crews from six ranked teams in the process.
"I think that we're really starting to find some good speed," said senior Susanne Grainger. "We've been working really hard to get to this point. And we still have a long way to go. But we're definitely starting to figure some things out, which is pretty exciting."
Duke, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are the three opposing teams in town this weekend. The Varsity Eight will race twice -- against the Spartans at 8 a.m., then against the Badgers at 1 p.m.
And the Cavaliers know what they want to accomplish this weekend.
"Improvement," Sauer said. "No matter what's happening around them, that they're going faster and rowing better than they have before. To get us ready for ACCs, to get us ready for NCAAs."
"Just focusing on racing our own race. And really figuring out what works for us," said Grainger. "We just really need to keep reinforcing what we do best, and making that even better than it is right now."
"Compared to last year, where we had a really good year, I think we're on track," said senior Kristine O'Brien. "Obviously it's a new year and a new team, and we're really excited about that. But yeah, it's looking really good for the next four weeks."