Knights top first Big Ten foe
Last season, the Rutgers gymnastics team did not score more than a 195 until its fifth time out.
The Scarlet Knights eclipsed it three times in their first three meets this season, leading to a 5-0 record.
The team traveled to Columbus, Ohio for a dual meet Sunday with No. 19 Ohio State. No. 16 Rutgers topped its previous two scores with 195.275 en route to its first-ever victory against a Big Ten opponent.
The score was also the fourth highest in program history.
“We really wanted to go out there and show everyone how good we were,” said junior Luisa Leal, one of three team captains. “Last year, we knew we were really good but a lot of people had doubts.”
Leal and senior co-captain Alexis Gunzelman competed as all-arounds for the third straight match this season.
Leal began earning a 9.85 on the vault and 9.825 on the uneven bars, before a season low 9.65 on the beam. She redeemed herself with 9.925 floor routine for a total score of 39.250.
Gunzelman received scores of 9.775 in every event, except for the balance beam where she scored 9.75, for an overall score of 39.075. It was her highest score of the season and first time tallying better than a 39.
The Knights also competed Friday in Ohio at No. 21 Kent State.
Competing also against George Washington and Eastern Michigan in a quad meet, Rutgers came in first with a score of 195.250.
“Our opening day score, some people question whether or not it was easy judging,” said head coach Louis Levine. “But coming out [at Kent State] and repeating it, I think we showed a lot of people. People are impressed. There’s a lot of buzz about us.”
The Knights opened against New Hampshire on Jan. 11 for the 14th straight season. With a 195.075-191.750 win, Rutgers set a new opening-day high score for the program.
Leal scored 9.900 in her floor routine for the meet’s high-score. She added 9.825 in the vault, 9.775 on the uneven bars and 9.725 on the floor for an all-around score of 39.225.
Levine intends to keep the traditional opener against the Wildcats following the move to the Big Ten next season.
“The plan is to continue to open up the season with UNH in some fashion or another,” he said. “I think moving forward after next season, we’ll try to get back to a dual meet with them.”
Both teams will open at Penn State next season.
While Levine is satisfied with the team’s scores so far, he believes they are still improving.
“To score 196s and 197s, there has to be near perfect routines from everybody, so we just have to keep putting up numbers and work on the perfect hand stands and the perfect landings, and those things will come,” Levine said.
He sees a renewed desire for victory in the team as well as a healthy lineup as the reason for the fast start.
“It’s a combination of being healthy, and the second thing is it was a goal of this team from the first day of practice to come out full strength and ready to go on all cylinders,” Levine said. “For the most part, that’s exactly what we’ve done and hopefully we’ll go upwards from here.”
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