Career highs launch RU?in home victory
Setting several career highs and compiling the third-highest team score in program history at 195.000, the Rutgers gymnastics team swept their home Alumni Meet on Saturday, besting Pittsburgh (194.625), Brown (191.850) and Southern Connecticut (188.525).
“I think that we’ve been ready to do this the whole year, and it finally came together,” said junior co-captain Alyssa Straub. “And we’re going to keep doing it. We’re ready to keep doing it. This is who we are.”
Only 0.125 points separated the Knights (7-5, 1-2) and Pittsburgh (5-5, 1-2) entering the final event rotation.
Rutgers faced a similar scenario with its EAGL Conference foe Jan. 26 and did not execute down the stretch. The Knights recorded a season-high score of 49.175 on the floor exercise this time to seal the victory. It was the third-highest score in the event in program history.
Senior Danielle D’Elia became the first Knight to perform a 9.900 on floor this season, and senior Nicole Romano produced a career-high score of 9.850 to help Rutgers forget the bad memories from last week’s performance against the Panthers.
The Knights owed much of their effort and renewed confidence to a packed crowd.
“The atmosphere in here is awesome,” Straub said. “It’s awesome to compete at home with so many people here. Our alumni are here. Our old teammates are here. I just think we were ready for this.”
Rutgers fed off the crowd early as it opened the meet with a historic mark on vault, setting a program-record score of 48.875 in the event. Straub performed a career high and tied an individual school record with a score of 9.875. Freshmen Nicolette Wilson and Danielle Verdon also set career highs with respective marks of 9.725 and 9.700.
“The momentum of starting on vault, doing so well, it just carried over to all of our other events,” said freshman Jenna Williams.
Williams was a model of consistency, producing a score of 9.825 on all three of her events for the Knights, including what she called a “lifetime high” on balance beam.
“I do this for my team,” Williams said. “I know maybe if not everyone can do their personal best at the meet that I need to be there to step up, so I can be consistent, so our team can hit and win meets.”
The return of junior Luisa Leal to the Knights’ beam lineup also paid dividends, as Leal complemented Williams with a score of 9.825 in the event.
Senior Emma-Rose Trentacosti rounded out a trio of 9.825 scores that led Rutgers to its season-high and third-highest program beam score of 48.850.
For head coach Louis Levine, the complete effort he searched for came to fruition.
It was the first time the Knights hit the 195.000 mark in his tenure at Rutgers, and March 1, 2000, was the last time the program eclipsed the score.
“Energy, consistency and practices getting better and better,” Levine said of the key to the performance. “This proves what we’ve been stressing all along: that we have the ability to great. And so we’re going to keep pushing, because we can still be better than this. [A score of] 196.000 is the elite standard, and that’s what we’re pushing for.”
Williams was not hesitant in expressing the national respect the team seeks.
“I just want the world to know that Rutgers gymnastics is a very great program,” she said. “Stop looking down on us and start looking at us as competition, instead of it just being an easy win.”
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GJohnsonTargum.