Knights focus on consistency for tough road test
Officially halfway through a season littered with ups and downs, the Rutgers gymnastics team gets another opportunity this weekend to prove the mental game philosophies it has preached.
For weeks the Scarlet Knights have stressed a mindset that is focused, consistent and stable under pressure.
But putting it all together has been easier said than done.
During the last three weeks, the Knights have been sporadic. They were swept by three teams Jan. 26 at Penn State, conquered three at home Feb. 2 and fell at Kent State on Saturday after falling apart down the stretch.
When Rutgers (7-6, 1-2) takes on No. 18 Maryland and West Virginia on Sunday in College Park, Md., it must finish routines and eliminate mental errors.
There really is no alternative.
“We’re not good enough to make mistakes and expect to win,” said head coach Louis Levine. “Got to go out there and be mistake-free.”
The Knights will not likely receive much help from their opponents.
The Terrapins (7-1-1, 3-1-1) bring in an overall score average of 195.240, ranking No. 6 in the country on vault and No. 25 on floor exercise.
The Mountaineers (5-4) rank No. 19 on vault and No. 17 on floor exercise.
It is arguably the most difficult road test Rutgers faces this season, but the Knights approach it no differently than any other meet.
They do not want to fall back into the trap of putting unnecessary pressure on their routines.
Levine understands it once again comes down to the team doing its job.
“The opportunity is there for us every week,” Levine said. “We have to go out there and hit all four events, and if we do that, we’ll be right there with them.”
Conducting further self-assessments, the Knights studied film Monday of their performances at Kent State.
Rutgers’ catalysts’ know they must take charge.
Freshman Jenna Williams had her first major hiccup of the season Saturday, only recording a score of 8.550 on balance beam. She did not even factor into the Knights’ scorecard in the event.
The rookie focuses on staying true to her strengths.
“There’s not much that me personally is planning on changing,” Williams said. “I just had a bad meet. One meet isn’t the end of the world. I just need to do the same thing that I’ve been doing and work on my mental part of it just as much as my physical part of it.”
Junior co-captain Alexis Gunzelman also looks to get back on track on beam. She posted a season-worst score of 9.200 last weekend in the event.
Senior Danielle D’Elia leads the way in Rutgers’ best event, the floor exercise, but needs to do better than the season-worst score of 9.775 she earned last week for the team to prevail.
The Knights hope to get even better production from junior Luisa Leal, who will be competing in her fourth meet of the season. She continues to work her way back to 100 percent on her vault, bars and beam routines.
Action begins at 5 p.m. from Comcast Center.
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GJohnsonTargum.