April 23, 2019 | 61° F

Knights face opportunity for revenge

Photo by The Daily Targum |

Senior Danielle D’Elia must lead Rutgers without one of its top gymnasts.

When the Rutgers gymnastics team left University Park, Pa., without a win Saturday, a collective feeling of an opportunity that slipped away lingered.

The Scarlet Knights were only 0.350 score points shy of toppling then-No. 22 EAGL foe Pittsburgh before ending the quad meet with their worst score on balance beam since the Jan. 6 season opener.

The Knights (4-5, 0-2) now return to the Livingston Recreation Center tomorrow for their annual Alumni Meet, when they have a chance at redemption against the Panthers (3-4, 1-1). Brown (5-0) and Southern Connecticut (2-3) will also compete.

Being within the confines of Rutgers’ own gymnasium should help its cause.

“It’s always good to be at a home meet because you’re comfortable with the equipment and you have your crowd,” said senior Danielle D’Elia. “Everyone is there for you, so that’s definitely going to help us.”

The field of competition may not be as strong as it was at Penn State, but it does not matter to the Knights.

It is understood that in a sport like gymnastics, improvement relies on self-assessment. There is no margin for chalking up poor performances to the competition.

“The expectation every week is to go in there and for us to do our job, and that’s what it comes down to,” said head coach Louis Levine. “You really don’t have any control over what Pittsburgh does or what Brown does, or what Southern Connecticut does, for that matter.”

Levine is a firm believer in the talent he has at his disposal.

He insists if the Knights do their job, they do not have to worry about what other teams produce on the scoreboard.

“If we do our part, we compete with everybody we compete with,” Levine said. “We just have to keep stepping up and making improvements, and I’ve seen improvements from week to week. It’s about putting that total performance out there.”

D’Elia said a total performance for Rutgers would mean breaking a point barrier it has yet to achieve all season.

“We’re just going into every meet not so much worried about beating other teams, but more like beating ourselves and doing better than we did the last time,” she said. “So with the upcoming meet, we’re more focusing on what we can do better as a team, and how we can get a 194.000 and break out of the 193.000.”

For Rutgers to attain a 194.000 overall score for the first time all season, it needs to find consistency across the board.

The only time the Knights scored at least a 48.000 in all four events was in their home opener Jan. 12. But on that day, Rutgers’ performance on floor exercise –— its best event in the team’s eyes — was its worst of the season and left much to be desired in Levine’s eyes.

Floor exercise has since been the team’s greatest asset, and both uneven bars and vault were fairly consistent last weekend.

In light of this, the key for Rutgers may be producing more consistency on the balance beam. Junior Luisa Leal said Tuesday she will probably compete in the event, which would likely enhance the team’s lineup.

Junior co-captain Alexis Gunzelman thinks the Knights need to bring mental toughness to the gym and not let pressure or adversity shatter their will.

“Most of all, I think that we need to improve in confidence,” she said. “I think that we lack a lot, and we get scared a lot. And we back off and we hold back. I think that we need to go in and believe in ourselves, and go hard.”

For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GJohnsonTargum.

By Greg Johnson

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