Injury threatens team scores
When the Rutgers gymnastics team treks to State College, Pa., for a quad meet with Penn State, Iowa and Pittsburgh tomorrow, there will be plenty of mixed emotions.
In a quick turn of events, recently injured senior co-captain Jenna Zito has been ruled out for the remainder of the season, said second-year head coach Louis Levine. Levine declined further comment on the nature of the injury.
Freshman Jenna Williams knows the Scarlet Knights (4-2) have to regroup and move on without one of their spiritual leaders.
“As a team captain, she led the team and did her part,” Williams said. “Now that she’s not there to do her part, we just all need to step up to show her that we can do this for her.”
The Knights believe this year’s squad is equipped to handle a significant loss because of the chemistry they developed during the course of several months together.
“I think our team morale has really been the thing that we’ve improved on the most,” said junior co-captain Alyssa Straub. “We all get along really well and support each other really well, and it’s awesome to compete with a team that is that way.”
In other news, Levine anticipates the return of junior Luisa Leal sooner than expected. Barring a setback, he will immediately re-insert Leal into the Knights’ vault lineup tomorrow, he said.
Junior co-captain Alexis Gunzelman will also likely perform a vault routine for the first time this season, which Levine thinks will boost Rutgers’ team score in the event. It has not been one of Rutgers’ stronger events this season with a 48.300 score average through three meets.
“They’re two of our better vaults. So that’ll obviously help our vault score this week,” Levine said. “And as we go further and further into the season, we’ll hopefully get healthier and healthier and keep adding in some more of our high-level routines.”
The team remains focused on improvement from meet to meet, and that starts with consistency.
The Knights want to not only hit their routines, but also perfect them with fewer point deductions.
“We’re trying to focus more on little things now instead of just hitting our routines, because we can all hit our routines,” Straub said. “Just the little things — getting my legs straight, pointing my toes on everything.”
Williams thinks the Knights need to remain mentally stable and focus on translating what they do in the practice gym to the meets they compete in.
“We do well in practice. Everyone can hit their routines,” she said. “It’s just when we actually get to the meet, we just need to work on our consistency and don’t change anything that we do in practice, and go into the meet knowing that we can beat these teams.”
Rutgers understands the field at Penn State poses arguably its toughest challenge yet.
Fellow EAGL competitor Pittsburgh (2-2, 0-1 EAGL) currently sits at No. 22 overall in the weekly GymInfo top 25 national rankings, which are based on season scoring average.
Big Ten opponents Penn State (3-3) and Iowa (1-1) crack the rankings for individual events. The Nittany Lions are No. 8 on uneven bars and No. 22 on vault, while the Hawkeyes are No. 14 on uneven bars and No. 21 on floor exercise.
“It’s going to be three of the best teams we’ve faced so far,” Levine said. “Pittsburgh is coming off a huge score last week — almost a 196.000 — and Penn State and Iowa are constantly at the top making regionals every year. It’ll be a good barometer of where we stand.”
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GJohnsonTargum.