RU drops event at Penn State
The Rutgers gymnastics team traveled to University Park, Pa., Saturday knowing it would have to be at its best to compete with the most challenging field it has witnessed.
The Scarlet Knights put forth their second-best team score of the season — a 193.225 — but the mark was not enough to capture a victory, as the Knights finished behind No. 22 Pittsburgh (193.575), Iowa (195.325) and host Penn State (195.500).
Junior Luisa Leal returned to the Knights’ vault lineup after being out with an injury sustained Jan. 20 of last year and showed no signs of rust. The Cali, Columbia, native immediately made an impact, as she led Rutgers tying for fifth overall in the event with a score of 9.775.
“I thought as a team we all did much better [Saturday]. I saw a lot of improvement from everybody,” said head coach Louis Levine said of the team’s performance on vault. “I thought the judging was really tight yesterday. Both [sophomore Sara Skammer] and [freshman Nicolette Wilson] stepped up their vaults to a different level. I thought on vault we did a good job. It’s going in the direction we want.”
Despite the loss, Rutgers (4-5, 0-2) delivered individual performances that would lead them to be optimistic moving forward.
“I think we started off really strong, and unfortunately we didn’t finish strong on beam,” Levine said. “I thought we had a chance to bring in a really nice score, and unfortunately it just didn’t happen.”
For the third consecutive meet, the Knights improved their score on floor exercise, earning a 48.850.
Senior Danielle D’Elia and freshman Katie Stebick finished at the top of the team’s floor lineup for a second straight week, both scoring 9.825, while freshman Danielle Verdon assisted with a score of 9.775.
The scores were career-highs for both rookies, who continue to prove vital for the Knights.
“[Verdon] and Katie have done a great job on floor and really helped solidify the event for us this year,” Levine said. “We started out on floor [Saturday] and it was a great start for us. They gave us some momentum moving forward.”
The Knights also took a step forward on uneven bars, regaining some of the consistency lacking the previous weekend.
Freshman Jenna Williams produced a team-high 9.825 and finished third overall.
For a program that has historically been inconsistent in the event, Williams posted at least a 9.825 on bars in all four meets this season and continues to make a case for EAGL Rookie of the Year.
Levine is impressed with the team’s performance on the bars.
“Really the expectation this year is that they’re going to get up and they’re going to hit their routines. It’s about how well they’re going to hit their routines,” Levine said. “With Jenna, her routine is the same every time. She can just carbon copy her routine over and over again and it’s a great thing to have.”
Junior Alyssa Straub recorded a season-high score of 38.400 on the all-around as Rutgers’ lone placing competitor, good for sixth place overall.
The Knights return to the Livingston Recreation Center to prepare for a home quad meet Saturday against Brown, Southern Connecticut and Pittsburgh.
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GJohnsonTargum.