July 21, 2019 | 92° F

RU aims for first road victory of year

Photo by Lianne Ng |

Junior Luisa Leal performed her season debut on the uneven bars Saturday at home, where she posted a score of 9.175.

When the Rutgers gymnastics team competes in a dual meet in Kent, Ohio, today, it hopes to seize what has eluded the Scarlet Knights all season: a road victory.

But for the Knights (7-5, 1-2) to capture their coveted first road win, they need to go through No. 24 Kent State, which boasts a 194.875 team score average through five meets.

A repeat of Rutgers’ historic 195.000 performance Saturday may not be enough.

The Golden Flashes (5-2) posted a 195.800 last week and have already surpassed the 195.000 mark twice this season.

But the Knights insist their recent home performance, which well exceeded their 193.570 season average, was not an overachievement.

“We even counted a fall [on uneven bars], and we still got a 195.000,” said junior Luisa Leal. “I’m pretty sure that if we do everything that we’re capable of, and we hit every single routine — we go 24-for-24 — we’re going to get a 195.800 or a 196.000 even.”

The fall on bars, which resulted in a score of only 9.175, was Leal’s doing.

Leal, arguably one of the team’s most talented gymnasts, has only competed in two meets this season and said her endurance is still returning.

Saturday’s meet marked her season debut on bars and balance beam, and Leal expects her production to improve as she continues building up her strength.

“I’m just coming back, so I’m not super strong yet,” Leal said. “That’s why after doing two handstand pirouettes it was just too hard to keep going with the actual routine. That’s why I fell, and the rest of the routine was fine.”

Rutgers enters the meet with the No. 25 average floor exercise in the nation, an event that has seen steady improvement in three consecutive meets.

Senior Danielle D’Elia leads the team on floor Saturday with a 9.830 score average and a career-best 9.900 effort. The Knights aim for a repeat of the 49.000 team mark it eclipsed at home.

“I think it’s definitely possible, and it’s definitely something we’re going to do again,” D’Elia said. “I don’t see my team not doing it again. We’re working for it and we work hard every day in the gym.”

Head coach Louis Levine anticipates only minor tinkering with Saturday’s lineup. Rutgers may have found both a lineup that jells and a proper frame of mind, but it still needs to overcome persisting struggles on the road.

The Knights average a score of only 193.013 on the road in contrast with a 193.942 average at home.

Levine understands the team’s mindset must stay consistent if it is to eliminate the disparity.

“Road, home — the vault’s set at the same height, the bars are the same distance apart. It doesn’t change,” Levine said. “You’re competing against yourself. You get up there and you’ve got to hit your routine. It’s not like basketball where you’ve got someone that’s trying to keep you from scoring. You get up there and do your job, and that’s all you can do.”

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

By Greg Johnson

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