CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WCAV) -- Written on a whiteboard hanging inside the Rivanna Reservoir Boathouse is a countdown to this year's NCAA Rowing Championship in Golden River, California. When it began last fall, the number was in the 200s.
On Monday morning, it read: 4.
"It's pretty surreal, actually, because all year you're talking about NCAAs. Going to NCAAs, training for this event," said Virginia senior rower Chandler Lally. "And then when it comes up, you're like, "Wait, where did all the time go?"
"It's a long haul," said UVa head coach Kevin Sauer. "It's like nine months of this, and hard work for nine months."
"All through the fall, all through the long winter indoors, all those snowstorms that kept us off the water," said junior Sam Casto. "It was kind of the motivation to keep going hard through the winter, which set us up for a really strong start to our spring."
The Virginia rowing team leaves Tuesday for California, where the Cavaliers will be one of 22 teams competing for this year's national title. UVa earned an automatic bid in this year's field earlier this month, when the Wahoos won the program's sixth straight ACC title.
"It's been two weeks of really good training since ACCs, and we're ready to hit California and throw it down, I think," said Casto. "It's mainly been about quality recently instead of quantity, which is really cool. And we're all just a little bit edgy now, and ready to go."
The Cavaliers enter the three-day championship seeded No. 6 in the Varsity Eight, No. 2 in the Second Varsity Eight and No. 3 in the Varsity Four.
"The 1V has gotten a lot faster, the 2V is maintaining their speed, getting faster, and the Four is just like dynamic right now," said Lally. "So I think we're a force to be reckoned with."
The UVa program has won a pair of national titles, first in 2010 then again two years later, in 2012. Lally and her fellow seniors were first-years on that 2012 national championship team.
"It motivates us a lot. That's why most people come to Virginia, is because of the history. Because of Kevin. Because of the coaching staff," Lally explained. "And to be part of that history is such a dream come true. And to go out my senior year with a team title would be amazing."
It would also give UVa its third team national title of the 2014-15 scholastic year. The men's soccer program won its seventh NCAA title in December; men's tennis won its second national championship in three years last week.
Sauer says that has given his rowers an added dose of motivation.
"Let's be another sport that can win this thing. They're very attuned to that," he said. "I announced that men's tennis won on the water last week, and they went nuts. So it's a matter of, we pull for each other, and it's one of those things where we'd like to do our part."