Bates Bobcast Episode 145: Women's rowing looks for a third straight NCAA title

On this week's Bates Bobcast, we're previewing the NCAA Rowing Championships! The Bobcat women are looking for their third straight national title. Plus, we catch up with Bates Director of Athletics Jason Fein, who fills us in on the Friends of Bates Athletics Challenge. All that and more!

Interviews this episode:

  • 1:18 -- Ayden Eickhoff '19, Women's Track and Field captain and six-time All-American.
  • 10:01 -- Elizabeth Folsom '21, Maya Seshan '20 and Elise Grossfeld '21, Women's Rowing coxswains.
  • 17:11 -- Paul Gastonguay '89, Head Coach, Women's and Men's Tennis.
  • 32:07 -- Brett Allen, Head Coach, Women's Lacrosse.
  • 41:06 -- Jason Fein, Bates College Director of Athletics.

Bobcast Transcript

Aaron: This is the Bates Bobcast. Our weekly podcast where we take a look at the week that was, in Bates athletics. My name is Aaron Morse and this week we’re previewing the NCAA Rowing Championships...the Bobcats are looking for their third straight national championship. Plus, we catch up with Bates Director of Athletics Jason Fein, who fills us in on the Friends of Bates Athletics Challenge. All that and more, coming up, on the Bates Bobcast!

Aaron: The Bates track and field teams competed at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last week and senior captain Ayden Eickhoff capped off her remarkable career by finishing second in the nation in the 1,500-meter run. Eickhoff is now tied with Vantiel Elizabeth Duncan for the second-most All-America honors in Bates women's track and field history, with six apiece. That number includes two second-place finishes and one third-place finish in her senior season alone. Eickhoff also becomes the program's all-time most-decorated runner in terms of All-America status, pulling out of a tie with Izzy Alexander and Jessica Wilson.

Aaron: Ayden, first of all I know we talked before the race, before you departed about what your expectations were, how the prelims, you had to be kind of strategic in terms of not giving too much I suppose in just qualifying for the finals. How did it all go from a strategic standpoint for you because it obviously worked out quite well in the end.

Ayden: Yes. In hindsight it did work out in the end. I will say that the prelim race, especially, was not the confidence booster I needed going into the final. It did work out. However, had the first heat gone a different way it might have pushed my time out. Essentially I was happy to make the final, but certainly having such ... it was a strategic race, people went out very slow and then had to sort of leave it all for that last lap. I sort of expected my speed to be able to carry me for that. And it did mostly, but I kind of squeaked into the final. But it totally did all work out in the end.

Aaron: I noticed from the heat you were sixth in the heat but I guess that heat was just really fast.

Ayden: Yes, it was faster than the first one which mean that, fortunately, I didn't necessarily need the top four qualifying.

Aaron: And then in the final, I mean obviously we talked about Emily Bryson of Brandeis and what she brings to the table. How did that race go in terms of approaching her and trying to keep pace with her throughout. Or did you not concern yourself necessarily with that?

Ayden: Yeah. I, in the final, even after the prelim race, really tried hard to stay calm and not take those nerves from the prelim race and go out really fast and try to lead it the entire time. I instead just took a deep breath and ... I was in the back for most of the race and I knew that the front runners were at a good pace, nothing too slow or too fast. Emily Bryson and I sort of did our own thing. I knew that I would have to make a move going into the final lap and because I hadn't tried to lead it at that point, I still had a quick lap left in me and she did as well. Pretty much as soon as I made my move, she made hers and just sort of blew by me. And I knew that was going to happen. Fortunately for me I just then concentrated on trying to stay in second for the rest of the race.

Aaron: Yeah. It looked like it was quite a close battle there for second place with a runner from Calvin College. Yeah. How'd that go?

Ayden: Exactly. It was. I could kind of see them coming on my inside and my outside. Fortunately I was able to persevere.

Aaron: And I assume you were able to make it back for graduation the next day and that all went smoothly?

Ayden: Yes, it did. It was a blur. It really was. But within 24 hours, essentially, I was second in nationals, and had graduated and moved out of my dorm. So it was pretty crazy.

Aaron: What does it mean to you to be the most decorated runner in Bates women's track and field history with those six All-America honors you have?

Ayden: You know, I personally have, at least to me, I feel like I hit Bates College at a time where we had such strong leaders, both just from a leadership standpoint and from a performance standpoint. Having Katherine Cook, Jess Wilson, Allison Hill, Sally Ceesay, having that whole crew as my leaders made it really easy for me to stay committed, show up every day. Because there was always people around me, who that wasn't even really an option for them. It was just sort of second nature.

Ayden: And to have those leaders throughout my time made it ... I think they just sort of paved the way for me. And my teammates, especially, made it all worth it. So having ... I think that I definitely owe my success to my surroundings in a lot of ways. My coach, my surroundings, but .... It really makes it all worth it, I think. I think it would have been worth it regardless of the accolades, but it really makes it look at the four years and say all the weekends that I gave to track, all the vacations that I needed to get out early and run in the mornings. It makes that all really valuable and worth it.

Aaron: Excellent. So what are you up to this week now that you're done with everything involving Bates at this point?

Ayden: Yeah, so I am sort of resetting this week. After moving out I realized I then need to get everything together to move back. I'm up in Burlington, Vermont for at least the summer, starting a position there. So I start on Monday.

Aaron: And what's the job?

Ayden: It is a community and recreation planning firm. So they're currently working on, I believe it's a trail project outside of Burlington and they're doing some community input surveying and so I will be, I think assigned to that mostly, but I'm hoping this next week gives me a little bit more insight.

Aaron: Excellent. And will you continue to run recreationally a bit? I'm sure in terms of finding fellow alums and whatnot?

Ayden: Exactly. Yeah. Katherine Cook is actually in the area, and she just today qualified for the Boston Marathon. It was this weekend, I guess, that she ran a race and qualified. So yes, I am excited to both re-invent how I run and maybe do some trail runs, maybe some fun 5Ks, something like that. Maybe meet up with Jess Wilson. But also I'm excited to see how the relationship with the team goes, because I know so many people have ... so many alumni have come back and either texted me or showed up at races. So I'm definitely excited to be able to take on that role as team fan and give back to a program that has been so important to me.

Aaron: Sounds good. So any other thoughts of your time at Bates that you wanted to share before we sign off here?

Ayden: I just have been such a beneficiary of the student athlete experience at Bates and I know that the people up top are working hard to make that experience a really fulfilling one for everyone. And I hope that both the Track and Field and Cross Country teams continue to nurture student athletes along at their time at Bates. Huge shout out to Coach Jay, Coach Fresh, Art, Kurt, Jacob. The whole crew. It has just been so valuable to me.

Aaron: Outstanding. Ayden Eickhoff. Second in the nation in the 1500 meters at the Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championships there on Saturday. Thanks so much for joining us on the Bobcast. Appreciate it.

Ayden: Thank you. 

Aaron: Sophomore John Rex and junior captain Brendan Donahue also competed at NCAAs for Bates, with Rex finishing 15th in the hammer throw and Donahue putting up a personal best score in the first day of the decathlon before being forced to withdraw due to injury the following day.

Aaron: The women’s rowing team is looking for its third straight NCAA title this weekend, with the Bobcats traveling to Indianapolis ranked first in the nation. We interviewed a trio of coxswains about how they lead the Bobcats down the river. Sophomore Elizabeth Folsom leads the first varsity eight, junior Maya Seshan leads the second varsity eight and sophomore Elise Grossfeld will serve as the alternate coxswain this weekend.

Aaron: Maya is this your first trip I think to NCAAs as a junior here? So what are you most looking forward to? What have you heard about it from the other coxswains?

Maya: This is my first trip. It has certainly been, I mean in my mind it's been something that I've been really hoping to get to. Working towards. I've heard a lot about it. I've had some really great coxswains in the past, people like Abby Bierman, Kate Traquina, Hanna De Bruyn, all those people who very much have been mentors and taught me a lot about what being a coxswain on this team looks like.

Maya: And then of course having people like Liza and Elise to work with, it just makes everything so much easier. And I think that's what makes us a very unique team of coxswains, especially at Bates, that we're very collaborative, very cooperative, and it helps everyone to improve.

Aaron: Awesome. Yeah, Liza, how do you work with the other two coxswains here?

Liza: A lot of it is on the water, steering together. Maya and I have come up with a few hand signals recently to tell each other when to stop. You really have to think about steering together, like steering around a turn with another boat can be hard sometimes. But, I don't know, I think just by talking to each other, and we've all gotten pretty close. That's definitely helped us work better together.

Aaron: Great, Elise tell me a little bit about your background. When did you start being a coxswain? Was it growing up, in high school? Here at Bates? Or how did that go?

Elise: Yeah. I've been coxing since freshman year of high school. Starting fall of my freshman year. I immediately fell in love with it and just knew from about a year into rowing that I wanted to cox in college. I wanted this to be something that I continued with for a long time because I really love it, and it's just really fun to do.

Aaron: Last year I know you got to travel to NCAAs, right, as an alternate and what was that experience like?

Elise: That was ... It was so cool. Just seeing everything built up. Getting to see so many teams there. We got to be right across from the Washington women and just seeing them and all the best of rowing from everywhere was an amazing experience. Getting to watch all of these races, and see teams that you've followed from afar for so long and just up close and everybody's on that same playing field and you feel, kind of like, equal with these elite rowers.

Aaron: Having an alternate who's so strong, like Elise, who has so much experience? That must be really nice, right?

Liza: Yeah, totally. It's comforting to know that if Maya and I's voice boxes go out Elise can handle it no problem. But yeah, it's definitely fun having Elise there.

Aaron: Elise, as an alternate, how do you kind of ... what's your approach to things on the trip and everything?

Elise: I'm just there to do whatever needs to be done. Whatever people need me to do, whether it's carrying things, just like helping move things from place to place. If Liza and Maya are busy, like can't help move the boat from slings to rack, I can do that. Just whatever they need to make the trip go the most effectively and efficiently for them.

Aaron: I saw you filming the practice today. How did that experience go?

Elise: Oh, just so, so great. Filming, so much fun.

Aaron: You're scared to drop the iPad, right?

Elise: Yeah. You know, it was me falling off the launch, the iPad falling off the launch. I thought the iPad was a little more of a priority, so I went with that.

Aaron: Maya, tell me a little bit about your background and what made Bates the place for you coming out of high school and everything.

Maya: In high school I coxed at a pretty competitive program. It was very much unheard of for me to go D3. Most of the girls that I rowed with rowed at Stanford and Michigan and they are going to worlds and they might go to the Olympics. And so, for my coach, it was kind of a surprise to hear that D3 was what I was considering, and for me it just made the most sense academically and otherwise. I think when you talk D3 there's absolutely no better place to be at than Bates.

Aaron: So are you looking forward to maybe seeing some of your old high school teammates at NCAAs then?

Maya: I definitely think so. A lot of them will be there, so it will be fun to see them, coxswains included. It should be very fun, very exciting. Like Elise said, you're on another level when you're there. You're competing with and seeing people who are really just the top of the top of the rowing world. So, some exciting stuff.

Aaron: Liza what was the experience like last year, seeing that first-hand for you, you know? The Division One teams, Division Two teams that were there?

Liza: It was awesome. You see videos of them on Instagram or their Facebook pages or whatever and the girls are just so tall and giant. Last year, like this year we have like tall, big people, but like oh my god, they got like 20 people, all like 6'7''. That's an exaggeration. It's really fun to watch the D1 teams, then also be there, and being able to rep Bates is pretty cool too.

Aaron: Else, in your opinion, what makes this group of coxswains special in your mind?

Elise: I think the dynamic that we have is just unlike any sort of coxswains I've ever had in high school or at any time. We work so well together and I think are so supportive of each other wherever we are and whatever we're doing. All three of us want all of the boats to be fast and whatever we can do together to achieve that goal for the team I think is the most important for us and it's just so much fun working with these guys. Me and Liza and Maya, we just have a great time. It's good.

Aaron: For sure. This time of year, of course, there's only two boats. During the regular season before this time there's a lot more. So what's this time practice like compared to maybe before it gets reduced down to two?

Liza: It's fun, but it's also kind of sad. We miss the third boat and the men's team. It's definitely a lot more chill here and everybody's not as hyper and jumping around. But, it's still fun. We just miss everybody else.

Aaron: For sure, then Maya I'll let you wrap things up. I guess looking forward to NCAAs, what are some things you're focused on with the two V to achieve the gold medal once again?

Maya: Absolutely, I think this boat is just so special. This position to be in is a very special position. You're pushed from every side of the team, like coach says you're pushed from the bottom up and from every seat up. I think that as we approach NCAAs for me, it's keeping this sheer power just calm and collected and keeping them as calm as they be so that they can just rip and drive and get to where they need to go.

Aaron: Excellent. NCAAs coming up. Liza, Maya, Elise, thanks for joining us on the Bobcast.

All: Thank you.

Aaron: We’ve already recapped the softball, baseball and men’s lacrosse seasons on previous episodes of the Bobcast. This time, we recap the tennis and women’s lacrosse seasons, starting with Bates women’s and men’s tennis head coach Paul Gastonguay. Both teams went 3-5 in NESCAC action this year.

Aaron: Anna Rozin is a first-year, really impressed right. Sweeney, another solid year as a sophomore. You know, playing that number one spot. What else stood out to you about the women's season this year?

Paul: I was just super excited for the energy and just the overall culture of the team this year. They were incredible. The work ethic they had. The unity they had. Just the togetherness. It's the tightest unit we've had in my 23 years. They're just a great group and they work really hard every day to battle for each other and sacrifice for each other.

Paul: They did it with a smile, which was really cool. You mentioned Hannah at number one. She's up against the toughest players in the country every single match and she had some real big wins and she had some real close losses, but you can never say enough about Hannah because she leads every day and she battles. And you know, she had a four hour match, basically. It's insane. The level of commitment it takes to endure that kind of pain over and over and over. They're playing like 50 ball rallies. She did that over and over this season and just really led the team.

Paul: Bella Stone is a senior. Has battled injuries her whole career. Her shoulder. She went through a grueling rehab and a shoulder surgery at the end of last year to get back for her teammates this year. And she held up pretty well but still, it kind of came back a little bit and bugged her, bothered her a little bit at the end of the season, but she battled through and she did it for her teammates. A lot of kids would have just packed it in and said, "I'm not going through the surgery. I'm not going to deal with this." But she was amazing.

Paul: I can't say enough about the juniors as well. Suzie and Isabelle and Lauren Hernandez were just unbelievable. And our first-years were incredible as well. You mentioned Anna Rozin and Sydney Byrnes and then we had some other players waiting in the wings who are doing some really good stuff.

Paul: Great leadership overall. Morgan Woods and Hannah Londoner got in a lineup sporadically but they always led the team and always had a great attitude. That was the mark of this team. They didn't care if they were in or out or where they played in the lineup. They just wanted to do it for each other. They were just really tight.

Paul: I'm super excited for next year. We really have a good group coming in. It's always tough to lose a senior class. That's the hardest part of my job, I think, is you reach the end of the era with those four players or three players that have been there for four years, and it just ... You've put a lot into it together and it's sad when they have to leave. But then there's also an excitement, kind of a rebirth when you have an influx of new talent and new players coming in next fall which we're super excited about. So it's a very strong class.

Aaron: Well, you mentioned Bella Stone, what she went through. I was here for the last home match of the year there against Colby and she dominated. Her serve was on point.

Paul: That was really cool to see. That's really who she is when she's pain free. Obviously when you're feeling stuff in your shoulder you kind of hesitate on your serve and you don't really finish and go up after it. And that match she was feeling it and doing unbelievable stuff and she just crushed her opponent who was a very good player.

Aaron: And then you had a couple of other seniors you mentioned didn't get in the lineup that much but they stuck with the program the entire time like Morgan Woods and Hannah Londoner. You mentioned her as well. So what's that say about them, that even though they weren't necessarily in the lineup a lot, they were able to stick with the team all four years?

Paul: It was a testament to this unit. The girls all talked about how much they meant to them and their leadership off the court and how they are always there for each other and having the upperclassmen there to help the first-years assimilate to college life and give advice and just be there for each other. They were a huge part of our team.

Paul: They trained hard every day. They were in every practice pushing people all around them and they made us better.

Aaron: Seemed like the women's team, just like the men's team right there on the edge of making the NESCAC tournament each year. There's only six teams. Is that going to be changing? I've heard some rumors.

Paul: It is actually. It just got approved. Next year we'll have eight teams so that will be exciting. I was just hoping so much this year. We had a really close battle with Williams in our last regular season match with the women and honestly we had a few points not go our way in the doubles and if those do, we can start up a two - one lead over Williams. And I think we can pull that out and be one of the six teams.

Paul: We were close, but playing on their home courts. It's tough. No excuses. They battled and they left it all out on the court. But next year there's a bunch of new opportunities coming our way and I think we're going to rise to the occasion and just .. and take some reps playing at that high level and knowing that you can be the best. I think now they understand that.

Aaron: Eight teams. Still going to be a committee type deal just because it's not a full schedule or is that going to change also?

Paul: It's all based on win loss record and strength of schedule. They look at everything. So if you play a stronger schedule and your win-loss record suffers because of that, it's based on head to head. So, it's pretty clear cut.

Aaron: Yeah. Now on the men's side, Josh Quijano, just what a career he had right, at Bates. Rising to play number one. What can you tell me about what he did?

Paul: Just first, an incredible person, but equally incredible athlete. The kid is so fast and quick and his hands are incredible. He had a great doubles career as well. To see a player come into the program and fight for five or six spot and just get better every year and to play at the one spot for the first time and have the year he had. It wasn't without blemish, but he beat some tough players and when he lost to top players he was in the battle. He was in three set matches versus Bowdoin, versus ... and a close match with Amherst that could have gone his way. That's a testament to his heart and how he competes on the court.

Paul: He's an incredible athlete and an incredible team leader and ... really proud of him. He accomplished a lot. We were really disappointed when he didn't get selected to the NCAA Tournament. He was an alternate and it didn't work out for him. But he was nominated and voted on by the coaches and selected as the ITA Northeast Region Most Improved Senior which is very fitting for a player to come in low in a line up as a freshman, and work their way up to number one. In this league, the big guns, they reload every year and they add a new stud at number one. A top ranked junior that comes in and really impacts the team ... It happens sometimes. But it's neat to see a kid develop and just grow and become a great competitor.

Paul: The thing I can say about Q is every single coach that we play against will comment about Q after the match, and just say, "I love the way this kid plays. I love the way he competes. He's incredible." And they just marvel at the stuff he's able to do. The big game, the big forehands and backhands. His ability to closeout balls at the net and just his quickness is incredible. And he has a big, big serve for a guy his size. He's definitely made the most of his ability and can't say enough about Q. Just an unbelievable person and we're going to miss him incredibly.

Aaron: And Jacob Kauppila was an All-American in doubles with Ben Rosen the previous year. A really strong season again this year at number two singles. He's going to be ready to step in at number one next year, isn't he?

Paul: Yeah. Kaup, as we call him, he's such an unselfish player. It's whatever the team needs he'll do. He and Q battled back and forth all year. Kaup could have played one or two. I mean, he's so solid. He almost had a perfect season. He had a couple of losses, but they were tight matches. He beat some really good players this year. He's an All-American doubles player from last year. So he brings a presence and a leadership. He's done it before and the guys look to him and they can look to his court and see ... This year, I think, better than the last two years, he made a huge improvement in ... just his energy on the court was so level and so focused and just, he was such a strong competitor. Win or lose a point, he would come back and play another one just as tough.

Paul: His all-court ability coming forward is pretty incredible and he led really, really well this year. We asked him to fill a different role and take an All-American doubles player and asking him to play three doubles this year with Alex Kennedy. We had a lot of injuries this year, so we mixed doubles up quite a bit. But we sort of settled on that for the last stretch of the season. Jacob was totally unselfish and energized. He wanted to do that and he wanted to help the team and he was a really good mentor for Alex and they played really well together.

Aaron: And then Ben Eckardt returning to the team as a senior after playing as a first-year. Tell us about his impact.

Paul: Ben's an incredible person as well. Really special kid. It was great. You know, I was watching him play ... He wasn't with us in the fall. He'd been really focusing on his academics the past couple of years, and he was just ... just received the Lindholm Award as the top, tied for the top male student athlete out of 31 sports teams which is a huge deal.

Paul: He's going on, he's already passed his first level actuary exam and he's got a job with Unum in Portland. So he'll be close by. It will be nice to see him on a regular basis. Here's a kid who wasn't even with the team, but he was training so hard every single day and I'd look at my window in Merrill here and I'd watch him every day either hitting serves or playing with the top guys on our team. Playing sets and matches against them and drilling with them and he was holding his own if not beating them. So I picked up the phone and I gave him a call. I said, "Ben, can you meet?" So we invited him back and encouraged him to join the team again. It was interesting. Our discussion, he was enticed by it, but he was like, "Let me sleep on this."

Paul: So jokingly, I said, "Are you going to go home and take a nap right now and call me in an hour, or ...?" It worked out and I think he actually did that because he literally called me within an hour and a half. A great decision for the team. With our injuries we needed someone to step in and make an impact and he did just that. Not just with his athleticism and his doubles play, but just his leadership ... overall leadership. His energy and enthusiasm to be on the court was infectious. And that's what we talk about every day. There should be a joy when you play. A joy of competing, a joy of battling, and when stuff goes bad you thrive on that and you persevere. And Ben was a perfect example for the team.

Paul: It was really cool to see him come up with a huge victory over a player from Bowdoin in one of our last home matches and he just played unbelievably well. He was a good juniors player, but the kid he beat was like a top 50 player. It was a big deal.

Aaron: Great. What are your thoughts on the tennis season for both teams this year?

Paul: It was a challenging year on the men's side, but I think if you go into a season expecting everything to be perfect, you shouldn't be in this line of work. I think we did our best to embrace the challenge of being down players. I think what I can say about the men's team is that they really persevered every single match and they were in the fight. That's all I can ask, honestly. They had to overcome a lot this year. We were still battling with the best teams in the country. We lost a lot of close ones, but we'll be back next year and we'll be stronger for it.

Paul: On the women's side it was the first year we've been healthy in the last three years. We had everyone in the line up for the most part. And Bella still was hampered a little bit but she was in most of the time. I think it was just, again, the opportunity to be in the lineup and to not be injured. With Suzie and Isabelle who missed an entire spring their first year or sophomore year, it gave them this incredible desire to get back on the court and they played with a passion and they really competed well.

Aaron: All right. Paul Gastonguay. Thanks so much for joining us from the Bobcast to recap the tennis season. Appreciate it.

Paul: My pleasure.

Aaron: The Bates women’s lacrosse team went 8-8 this year and 4-6 in NESCAC play. The Bobcats were the only team in the country to defeat eventual NCAA champion Middlebury. Head Coach Brett Allen joined us on the phone to talk about that win and to recap the season.

Brett: Well, I think it's a testament to the strength of the NESCAC, of course, whenever you have a team that's able to finish off the season with a national title. Obviously, the final four this year had three of the four teams as NESCAC teams. Certainly a strong conference this year. I think for us to be able to start a NESCAC schedule at Middlebury with a win was obviously huge at the time. I think it certainly was giving us a lot of excitement as we started the season and certainly we had some great wins this year. We played a tough schedule and the fact that three of the four teams in the final four were NESCAC teams, and honestly a fourth, Amherst, just missed by losing by a goal in the regional quarterfinals. It's a tough league. And we had a good year, but certainly want to get to the place where we're in contention to go to the final four.

Aaron: And in terms of the Bobcats' offense this year, Margaret Smith as a sophomore really had a kind breakout season. What do you see from her?

Brett: I think there's always a big jump for kids when they transition from their freshman to their sophomore year. I feel like across the board our sophomore class was much more impactful this year than they were as first-years. And a lot of that is just due to the fact that they're a little bit more emotionally mature, they obviously kind of know their way around campus and they know what to expect as far as the season goes. I think that just gives those kids, and obviously Margaret included, an opportunity to just get comfortable and play their game rather than trying to force it and prove to everybody that they're good enough to compete at this level. I was obviously proud of her, but really proud of all our returners for amping up their game a little bit and being more consistent than they were a year ago.

Aaron: I know you've been very busy these past few days in post-season meetings with players. What do you get from that? What do you want the players to get from that in terms of looking back on the season when you talk with them?

Brett: Well, everybody's got a different take on the season for the most part, as far as it goes as an individual. But I think collectively the team was obviously really excited with how the season started. Certainly there was some disappointment with how our season ended. At the same time, our job as coaches is to give them a little perspective. We certainly had a great start, but every week is a new week in our league. I've kind of always said to them, I'm like, "What you need to realize is it's obviously a 15 game season, but every week is its own new season."

Brett: And so being able to sort of refocus and get prepared for a new opponent when you have different challenges with your academic schedule or the way our semester falls each week from the beginning of March through the end of April, it's something that we talked about a lot with the team throughout the season, and then obviously, touched on again in our meetings at the end of the year. So, we're excited for next year. I think there's certainly things that you learn about your team and about what your strengths and weaknesses are that give you a chance to refocus as you look ahead to the start of another year next fall.

Aaron: Certainly and then obviously, seniors graduating, Eliza Statile played a lot on goal this year, but you also had Rachael there backing her up and playing a fair number of minutes herself. So, what did that experience gain for her looking forward?

Brett: Well, I would hope that everybody who gains experience is going to be able to use that and sort of have a really solid foundation going into the next season. I feel like Rachael's going to be in a good position to earn the opportunity to play in goal, but at the same time I think she's got to adjust to now, instead of being the younger goalie, she's going to be the more experienced and veteran goalie. And so that's going to be a new challenge for her, and something that we talked about with her.

Brett: But I think all goalies are kind of ready for that transition. We do have another goalie that's coming in who will part of our first-year class next year. We expect that she's going to do what Rachael did last year as a freshman, which is compete really hard, do her best to put her best foot forward, and then obviously make Rachael really earn that job if she plays well enough and deserves it.

Aaron: Was there anything about the season that surprised you, good or bad, throughout the year as it kind of progressed, about the team and everything?

Brett: I've done this long enough so I wouldn't say there's a lot that surprises me anymore, because I've tried to temper my expectations, just because every week is a new week and you just never really know what to expect. Even if ... You can have a great week of preparation and then lay a complete egg in a game on a Saturday. And you could have a terrible week of preparation and then up playing your best game.

Brett: Since I've coached enough games to realize that that's a possibility every time, I wouldn't say anything surprised me more than the fact that the end of the semester actually seems like it should be easier for our athletes. Because as you finish up exams and you look into kind of that little bit of stretch with games after break, there's less stress on their plate. There's less things they have to worry about academically, but I feel like we struggled to play our best, even though we had less stressors in our life. And so that surprised me a little bit. Not so much that we lost to Tufts or Amherst or Colby, but the fact that the games weren't a little bit more competitive. Certainly a part of that is because of the quality of the opponents. I acknowledge that as well. I think if there was any surprise it was just maybe that those games weren't a little bit closer.

Aaron: Yeah, it seems like lacrosse is obviously a game of runs to say the least in that if you don't respond with a run it can get out of hand quite quickly. Is that something, obviously, you've observed in your time coaching in terms of how to be able to answer when that team scores four goals in a row or something like that?

Brett: Yeah. There's no question that it is a game of runs. I think what we struggled with maybe was, in those last few games, and even a little bit in that exam week or the week before exams in the beginning of April, was just getting off to a good start and responding after the teams we were playing scored three or four goals early.

Brett: Again, it's one of those things, if a coach had the magic wand to figure that out, none of us would be coaching, we'd all be consulting and telling everybody how to do it. I think that learning from that and figuring out how to be resilient, how to be more focused at the beginning of a game is definitely a takeaway from this season that hopefully we can improve on looking ahead to next season.

Aaron: What did the class of 2019 mean for the women's lacrosse program in your opinion?

Brett: I think the five girls that just finished up their careers did an amazing job of ... From the moment they got here as first-years, really buying in to the team culture. Obviously they were a part of the team that went to NCAAs in 2016 and that was basically our best year in the history of the program since the NESCAC tournament started in the early 2000s.

Brett: That was a huge experience for them because they were able to sort of take some of the things they learned as first-years and then as they got older and became more impactful on the field as players, they were able to really help our team culture, especially from their junior into their senior year. To just remind everybody of why we do this, and it is about the team, it's not about individual accolades and individual performances. It's about having a great experience, obviously competing hard to do the best you can, but I think the five of them just from the moment they arrived as first-years they watched the seniors they played for then, and they were kind of ready for this moment to really put us in a position to be competitive again. Because we missed the NESCAC playoffs when they were sophomores and juniors in 2017 and 2018, so to get back there this year and sort of do it with their leadership was just like really, really cool.

Aaron: Awesome. Well, last question for you. Any other thoughts on the season that we haven't talked about and what you're most looking forward to next year perhaps?

Brett: Obviously we lose those five young ladies who are going to go off and have amazing careers and lives after Bates. We had a roster of 27, so we've got 22 kids coming back. We feel really good about our rising junior class, our rising senior class, and obviously we have five first-years this year that I thought were very impactful in their own ways. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they transition from freshmen into sophomores as well. And then next year we've got a bigger group of first-years arriving. We've got nine to 10 kids that will probably make up that class. I'm just excited to get started again. Every season is a new season and every team is a new team because kids mature and get older and you have different personalities that get added into the mix. Just can't wait to get going again.

Aaron: From Wednesday through Friday this week, Friends of Bates Athletics is issuing a challenge to the Bates community. 3 days, 31 varsity sports, 310 donors…Bates Director of Athletics Jason Fein fills us in on the challenge.

Jason: The challenge came about through some conversations with our Senior Associate AD Celine Cunningham and myself talking about ways that we could help use modern technology to help our teams reach their fundraising goals. One thing that anyone involved in intercollegiate athletics knows these days is that fundraising is a big part of the job, whether you're the AD or whether you're the coach, to try and supplement your program.

Jason: This has been really successful at some other campuses. Anybody who's in this world has probably seen some of the campaigns out there on social media. So we approached our advancement office and our advancement team and they were really receptive. We put this together. This is the first go at it, and so far there's been a pretty good buzz. We plan on refining it and using some of the feedback we get this year to see how we can do. But we've got a great goal of $31,000 in 31 teams, so we're trying to stick with the 31s. And it will end on May 31st, and we're trying to get 310 donors.

Jason: Certainly we want to encourage everybody to, no matter how big or small, to go out there and make a gift because it all counts towards the challenge.

Aaron: And the teams are competing against each other, kind of. There's a leaderboard, which people can check that out as well, right?

Jason: If coaches and student athletes can identify with anything it's competition, right? So we thought that doing the leaderboard and GiveCampus makes it really easy to do that, that we thought we'd create a little healthy competition, a little challenge. And there's some incentives in there, because donors have created incentives based on who gives what on what particular day to what particular team. It should spark folks to get out there to their networks, to alums, to parents and boosters of the program to try and get that challenge so that their team can hopefully realize a little bit more in the donations than they would just through the regular giving.

Aaron: For people who may not know, Friends of Bates Athletics is in the Office of Advancement here at the college. It really supports all of the varsity sports. What have you seen in your time here, the impact of donations to Friends of Bates Athletics on the Department?

Jason: Oh, it's been huge. First of all, the fact that we didn't have to come in and create a giving arm of athletics. That it already existed in Friends of Bates Athletics is huge. Anywhere from half a million to a million dollars a year is raised through campaigns and fundraising that go to help supplement the programs. Having kind of an official arm and a partner in our advancement team is really important and we work with our folks over there very closely. It's everything ... this may be folks' first experience, officially, with Friends of Bates Athletics, but it's happening behind the scenes every year. Golf outings and other events and things like that that we do with alums and parents and donors all kind of gets funneled through Friends of Bates.

Aaron: This week of course we have the exciting three-day donor challenge through Friends of Bates Athletics. While the challenge is going on, the rowing teams are in Indianapolis right now. They'll be competing Friday and Saturday at the NCAA Championships looking for another national title. How excited are you to see what this team can do yet again?

Jason: I mean, it's super exciting. I know you'll be there cheering them on as well and covering it for all of us. It's a great exciting time of year. Anytime that you're playing after graduation in any sport it's really exciting. So to be out there competing in the NCAAs ... It's an odd spot for some of our teams to be in, which is to be this perennial favorite, right? The one that have the target on your back, so to speak, from the rest of the country. But that's what Bates rowing really has earned in winning these national championships. Going in as the number one seed.

Jason: Some other teams are used to going in there as the underdog and kind of, quote/unquote, having nothing to lose and with the rowing team, it's everyone is watching them. And that's a lot of pressure on the student athletes and on the coaching staff. I'm just amazed at how they continually respond. Whatever happens I think we're super proud of them. And of course, we'd love to win a national championship, of course, but to continue to compete at this high level and to be out there in the championships again and seem to just always focus and double down on what they're doing is just a huge testament to the coaching staff and to those student athletes.

Aaron: Absolutely. Well, we talked with Scott Lehmann last week about the facilities priorities and what's going on over the summer, the initiatives there. From your perspective maybe outside of that, what else are you going to be looking to do over this summer leading into next fall from a department standpoint?

Jason: We actually have been in some meetings these last couple of weeks talking about continued facility improvements. Our goal is always to try and recruit the best and the brightest, whether it be coaches, whether it be student athletes. And we know we need to include a facility plan in those goals, right? I mean, it's admissions is huge in recruiting the best, but also facilities speaks to prospective students these days. Yeah, we've made some great strides and I'm glad that you got to talk to Scott a little bit about that. We're really excited at the way Alumni Gym has turned out from kind of start to finish, the actual gym and the bleachers, along with the new lobby and some of the other areas.

Jason: But we're going to continue that process and we're going to focus a little more on branding this summer, updating some of the spots were the brands are a little bit outdated, scoreboards and hallways and things like that. We want to try and take our showcase pieces where recruits come, which was really kind of the lobby here, and move that over to the lobby of Merrill and the lobby of Underhill and of course getting the turf down in Underhill is going to be huge from a performance standpoint. We really want to try to key in on maximizing our student athletes' peak performance. And that means physical, that means mental, that means emotional, it means social. And so we're always kind of looking at it with that eye of what is that student experience going to be like?

Jason: So that will go a long way. We're looking at what we can do. Again, partnering with advancement and our great administration to try and say, "Look, what does the next phase of this look like?" There's little fixes and then there's also bigger projects and facility projects that we want to do. We want to have better locker facilities, locker rooms, changing areas, you know. Things out at the fields, new turf fields and stuff like that. So, yeah. We've got a lot in the works and they'll have to stay tuned to the Bobcast.

Aaron: Well, yeah. For sure. Well speaking of that. You mentioned you wanted the best. You made a new hire for women's soccer. New head coach. Tell us about him coming in from UPS.

Jason: Yeah. Joe Vari. Coming from Puget Sound. Real excited to have him coming pretty much about as far as you can go in the Continental U.S. and still be here, coming up to Maine. He's got a great track record of building programs his last two spots. He knows how to do it in a highly competitive academic environment, in a highly competitive athletic environment. Came out here and pretty much it was unanimous amongst folks that met him that this was going to be a good fit. And we're real excited. The team is certainly excited. We were able to have a Zoom conference call with him last week after we named him, and had the team, because some of our folks were still traveling overseas and abroad and it was nice to have the whole team getting excited about it.

Jason: He'll be on campus this summer. He's already hitting the ground recruiting before he even actually makes it to campus. He'll be at some recruiting events. We're excited that that team has good things ahead and Joe is going to do well here.

Aaron: Any other thoughts on the Friends of Bates Athletics Challenge we have coming up this week?

Jason: This is again, the first time that we're trying this specific targeted campaign. Again, I think that any gift, no matter how small, counts toward the challenge. Will help unlock some donors that have challenged folks to ... they'll match. So yeah. We just want to get everybody involved and also that competitive feel amongst the student athletes, amongst the coaches, just keeps a little competition going after the seasons are almost done. Rowing's still happening. It's been a good year and we want to get some momentum into the summer as we start thinking about the fall, which believe it or not is right around the corner.

Jason: I also would just really like to thank you on behalf of everybody that gets interviewed on the Bobcast and whenever I'm out at alumni events, people tell me that they listen to it, they really love waiting for it to show up in their inbox and all the things you've done with video and with broadcasting and with the Bobcast and really making sure that we showcase the student athletes and their achievements. So thank you.

Aaron: Thank you. Jason Fein joining us here on the Bobcast.

Aaron: Next time on the Bates Bobcast, we’ll wrap up the 2018-19 school year with our report from Indianapolis, where the women’s rowing team is looking for its third straight NCAA title this Friday and Saturday. That’s next time on the Bates Bobcast!