RU looks to continue strides after UNC win
The Rutgers gymnastics team not only faces the daunting task of competing against West Virginia and Pittsburgh on Saturday, but it also has to improve on one of the team's best performances in recent memory.
The Scarlet Knights look to build on their season-high score of 192.050 that earned them a victory over long-time East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) rival North Carolina for the first time since 1976 — along with Pennsylvania and Brown — in the first home meet of the year.
For head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton, the goal is to continue to strive for better scores and never grow complacent with success. Chollet-Norton made it clear that despite her team's early success, there is still room for improvement.
"We honestly think we are a 194, 195 [point] team when we get everything together," Chollet-Norton said. "A 192 is a great start to that. We have to be cleaner and sharper."
The Knights face a tough field, competing against a home team in the Mountaineers, as well as Pittsburgh, which averages over 192 per contest.
While Chollet-Norton believes her team is capable of winning, she is also realistic, acknowledging that her team is an underdog.
"It's going to be a tough meet," Chollet-Norton said. "I just hope we can give Pittsburgh a scare."
In addition to working on fundamentals and cleaning up errors in routines, Chollet-Norton is focused on instilling a sense of belief in her team. After years of tempering expectations, she believes that the Knights need to recognize how talented they truly are.
"We need to get the girls believing that they can beat anyone," Chollet-Norton said. "This team has the talent and depth to keep getting better."
Chollet-Norton's athletes seem to be following the coach's lead, exuding confidence by recognizing the team's vast potential.
Sophomore transfer Danielle D'Elia, who was recently named EAGL Specialist of the Week, has quickly established herself as a star performer and rapidly bought into Chollet-Norton's message. Although she took first place in all three events she participated in and propelled her team to a victory, D'Elia recognizes the team needs to keep improving.
"We had some falls here and there [on Saturday]," D'Elia said. "We aren't going to be perfect all the time, but that is something we have to strive for. This team has a lot of potential, and it's great to be part of it."
Freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo, another impressive newcomer, also seems to recognize the team's ability to compete with any team they face. Like D'Elia, Leal-Restrepo sees it as a goal to have the team stick 24 out of 24 routines, despite recognizing that perfection is hard to come by.
"Even though we won, we did have some mistakes," Leal-Restrepo said after Saturday's meet. "We'll need to work on all our mistakes to try to be perfect in our next meet."