Knights aim for regionals in final home contest
Coming off a three-week road trip with stops in Ohio, Maryland and Colorado, the Rutgers gymnastics team performs at home tomorrow for the final time this season.
Seniors Danielle D’Elia, Nicole Romano, Emma-Rose Trentacosti and Jenna Zito will bid farewell to days of competition inside the Livingston Recreation Center.
The Scarlet Knights are eager for a proper sendoff, and history says it is likely.
Rutgers is 7-1 at home this season, where it boasts nearly a 194 score average. The last time the Knights competed in this building Feb. 2, history was made with the program’s first 195 score in almost 13 years.
The Knights push for more of the same this time, understanding they cannot get too caught up in the emotions of Senior Day.
“Obviously it’s an exciting time, and it’s a sad time,” said head coach Louis Levine. “But in the end, it’s a competition. It’s our last home competition for the year. Obviously we want to go out with a bang for the seniors, but just as a team, we’ve got to keep stepping up our game.”
Rutgers, currently ranked 43rd in the nation with a Regional Qualification Score of 193.950, aims to reach the top 36 and qualify for the NCAA Regionals by the end of the season. The Knights have not made the postseason as a team since 2007.
But after this week, Rutgers has only two more meets before the EAGL Championships on March 23. There is a sense of urgency for the Knights to crack down on tiny intricacies in their routines.
“This week is about hitting perfect handstands and sticking landings and working on some of that stuff that can make the difference between being good and being great,” Levine said. “We didn’t count a fall [at Denver on Saturday], but there were lots of little things here and there that the judges obviously said was an issue.”
Rutgers deems it imperative to consistently surpass the 195-mark potential it has shown flashes of to ensure an appearance in the NCAA Regionals.
But despite failing to eclipse 194 at Denver, Levine insists the difference between this and the elite score range is often overdramatized.
“This isn’t a big difference between what we scored and the 195 we scored the week before,” Levine said. “That’s like a quarter of a tenth per kid throughout the meet. It’s very little things.”
According to Levine, the Knights can easily eliminate that disparity if every gymnast simply focuses on the landing of routines. Sticking landings is paramount, he said.
“You stick, that’s a tenth higher — well that’s two points higher [for the team],” Levine said. “If we just stick every dismount — we didn’t do a really good job of sticking [last] week — and there we go, we’re at almost a 196.”
Other areas that Levine emphasizes will go toward the desired results are successful handstands on bars and showmanship on beam and floor.
The time to execute these philosophies is now, and this week provides extra motivation. The Knights know it is an experience their seniors will never have back.
“This meet is definitely going to be a lot of fun and sad at the same time,” said freshman Jenna Williams. “You just want to make the last home meet the best that it could possibly be so they can remember it.”
Joining Rutgers in the quad meet beginning at 1 p.m. are Brockport, Cornell and William & Mary. The Knights will honor their seniors in a ceremony following the conclusion of the meet.
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GJohnsonTargum.