Competing at the NCAA women’s rowing championships as a freshman is something Stanford’s Chase Shepley doesn’t take for granted.
“We’re a smaller team,” said Shepley, a Crystal Lake Central graduate. “With some bigger programs, a lot of freshmen don’t even have a shot. We have 40 girls to other teams’ 60 or 70. The fact that I was able to get out there and race was super exciting.”
Even more exciting was Shepley’s contribution to the varsity four boat, which was seeded ninth going into nationals. The group made the grand final and finished fourth in the event.
Thanks to that performance, the Cardinal earned fourth place as a team and a spot on the podium at nationals.
“It was unlike any rowing that I’ve done,” Shepley said. “It was some of the best racing of my life. A lot of that stems from the team atmosphere and just the vibe around the competition. It’s high stakes. We were able to do something special.”
Stanford’s time of 7 minutes, 14.757 seconds was less than 3 seconds behind third-place finisher Virginia.
Shepley credited the resolve of the group for its impressive finish in the varsity four race, which was won by NCAA team champion Cal on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif.
“We had a lot of girls in the boat who were hungry and wanted to prove themselves,” she said. “We found a rhythm as a group. Being in the four was a great experience.”
The group Shepley found herself with at the NCAAs was a fairly new pairing.
“[The coaches] are always trying to find what’s fastest, so you get shuffled around a lot,” she said. “The lineup was one that was put together late in the season. The mentality of the boat was so tough. Everybody really wanted to race.”
Shepley said her biggest gains this season were both physical and mental.
“Going from high school to college, you’re going to gain fitness,” she said. “That’s true across the board for everybody. The mental toughness is key. You have a lot of things thrown at you.
“There’s so much competition within the team,” she said. “You want to beat your best friends, but you also want to cheer them on.”
More honors for Hampshire grad: On and off the ice, D-III Plattsburgh (N.Y.) State women’s hockey player Giovanna Senese keeps collecting awards.
Senese, a Hampshire grad, was chosen June 7 for the College Sports Information Directors of America second-team Academic All-America team. The senior forward compiled a 3.98 GPA as a double major in mathematics and physics.
In March, Plattsburgh won its third consecutive D-III national title as Senese earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Senese scored 13 goals and contributed 22 assists this season for the Cardinals (29-1).
Fab Whitewater frosh Aldridge: Prairie Ridge grad Cal Aldridge’s impressive freshman baseball season at D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater included a trip to the NCAA World Series and a major award.
Aldridge was honored June 2 by HeroSports.com as the national Newcomer of the Year in D-III baseball.
The third baseman led the Warhawks (34-17) with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs while batting .398, which ranked second on the team. He started every game this season and posted a team-high .629 slugging percentage.
Whitewater, which was playing in the NCAA tournament for the ninth straight season, advanced to the D-III World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin, where it lost two games by a total of three runs.
Rosch collects MVC honor: Illinois State volleyball standout Ashley Rosch (Cary-Grove) was selected Wednesday as the female recipient of the Missouri Valley Conference’s Dr. Charlotte West Scholar Athlete Award.
The honor is given to one MVC male and one female athlete each year for academic achievement, athletics excellence, and service and leadership, according to the conference.
In the fall, Rosch became the first player in ISU history to earn first-team All-MVC four times. Only five MVC players have achieved the feat. An environmental health major, Rosch posted a 3.85 cumulative GPA over the past four seasons.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.