Rutgers drops close road contest to UIC
For the fifth consecutive week, the Rutgers gymnastics team eclipsed the 194 mark. But on Sunday afternoon against Illinois-Chicago, it wasn’t enough, as the Scarlet Knights (10-7, 1-4) narrowly fell to the Flames (2-10) by a score of 194.275-194.200.
The first of five away meets, Rutgers began the competition on the uneven bars, an area that has been giving it some trouble recently. With senior April Baker, junior Libby Groden and freshman Erin McLachlan leading the way all scoring 9.750, the Knights would go on to score a 48.250. For McLachlan, a native of the United Kingdom, it was a career-high.
“I had a really good meet in Chicago,” McLachlan said of this past weekend. “I’m really happy that the work I’ve been putting in has finally paid off for the team.”
The transition to Rutgers for the United Kingdom native has been hectic, but with the support of her teammates and coaches, it has come a lot easier.
“My first semester so far has been very overwhelming with starting school and going straight into season,” she said. “But the transition has been so much easier than I imagined with the support from all of the girls. They’ve made me feel really at home and I’m so grateful. It’s very different here to where I come from but I’m loving every second of it.”
Rutgers once again scored best on the balance beam, taking all three top spots.
Baker and junior Makenzey Shank each scored a 9.800, a career-high for Baker, to tie for first, while Groden tied for third with her score of 9.775. Freshman Polina Poliakova of Great Britain also scored a 9.725. Overall, the Knights tallied a score of 48.750 on the day.
“Well I think it starts at practice,” Baker said when asked why her teammates are so effective on beam. “We are really close with our beam coach and the exercises she does with us at practice I think reflect our performance in competition and how we practice. She just embeds confidence so I just think we are super confident on beam.”
On vault Rutgers scored a 48.725, matching its season-high it totaled from last week. McLachlan led the lineup with a 9.800, her second career-high score on the day and good for second place.
Sophomore Riahanah Ali followed with a season-high 9.775, netting her a third place finish. Senior Claire Jones, Groden and freshman Chloe DeVries rounded out the crew with scores of 9.750, 9.725 and 9.675, respectively.
“Going from competing individually to competing for a team is a very different experience,” McLachlan said. “I think I let the pressure get to me at the past few meets, but this week I went out knowing the girls were supporting me and had my back no matter what. It was just so positive and so fun that I forgot about the pressure. Because of that I got my highest beam and vault score so far.”
Sophomore Jenna Rizkalla led the floor lineup with a 9.825, her fourth time topping the 9.800 mark this season, and received second place on the day. Jones scored a 9.800, which tied her for third place. The Knights finished the rotation with a score of 48.475.
It’s important for Rutgers to remain consistent, but to get to that next level it will need to start to put some higher scores up on the scoreboard.
“Consistency is definitely key, but we are definitely looking to score higher,” Baker said. “This is kind of like our minimum so we’re definitely looking to push the envelope even higher the next few meets.”
Head coach Lou Levine knows his team is going to need to do better in the coming weeks if they want to reach the goals they set out at the beginning of the year.
“We showed a lot of resiliency today but in the end it wasn’t enough for us to get the win,” he said.
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