This weekend is one the Virginia rowing team looks forward to every season. The No. 5 Cavaliers host No. 18 Syracuse and Michigan State Saturday at the UVa Invitational at Lake Monticello, the lone home race on the Wahoos spring schedule.
"Oh it's beautiful. We rarely have the advantage of having an at-home race," senior Elle Murray explained. "We're usually flying, driving, sleeping in hotel beds, sharing beds, all of that. So it's really nice to stay at home, get a good night's sleep and know you're waking up the next morning ready to compete."
"Nothing beats having every team member free and available and with you at that one weekend to race at Monticello," fellow senior Fiona Schlesinger added. "It just brings everyone together and it's the perfect weekend."
Murray and Schlesinger are two of the 14 Cavalier seniors who will be honored Saturday in the team's final regular-sason race. They represent a senior class that has won four ACC Championships during their time on Grounds and a National Championship as well.
"I've been coming to Senior Day since my freshman year and looked at the fourth years then like 'Wow I can't believe that will one day be me.' And now that is me," Murray said.
"I can't believe we're actually here and can look around at our teammates and really just enjoy the moment," Schlesinger added.
The Cavaliers are coming off a mixed result at last week's ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Wahoos won nine races, but the previously unbeaten varsity eight suffered a pair of losses against No. 3 Ohio State and No. 10 Michigan, leaving the team to regain focus ahead of this weekend.
"The varsity eight was undefeated before last week, now we're 7-2. So it kind of shakes things up a bit as far as what our expectations are, what we need to do. Kind of keeps us honest and there's nothing wrong with that," head coach Kevin Sauer said.
"The team word is 'resolve.' It's something we're really thinking about," Murray added. "We had some great results last weekend and some we're not so happy about."
Sauer is hoping his team takes a cue from the Virginia men's basketball team.
After a 35-point loss to Tennesse at the end of December, the Cavaliers rebounded to win both the ACC regular-season and Tournament championships, earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and make a run to the Sweet 16.
The Cavalier rowers were big fans of Bennett's team, and knowing Sauer's friendship with the ACC Coach of the Year, pleaded with their coach to have Bennett pay them a visit.
"We'd been begging for a few weeks, knowing they were friends, saying 'Please bring Tony Bennett, please let him come,'" Murray explained.
Sauer approached Bennett at a recent bible study and asked if he'd be willing to speak to the team. Not long after, Bennett was at the UVa Boathouse, speaking in front of an eager and attentive group of rowers with a positive message for the team moving forward.
"Individually you can do some powerful things but as a group you can do even more powerful things," Sauer said of Bennett's message. "And we feel the same way. Entitled to nothing. Grateful for everything."
"He had a great message of unity and just being one team," Murray added. "I'd say that was his main message and it really spoke to us."