Rutgers hopes to bounce back from close loss in trip to Towson
After a short week of practices, the Rutgers gymnastics team is headed on the road once again, the second of five consecutive meets away from Piscataway, as it travels to Maryland to face the Towson Tigers Friday night at 7 p.m. inside the SECU Arena.
The Scarlet Knights (10-7, 1-4) are coming off a Sunday meet against Illinois-Chicago in which they just barely fell to the Flames by a narrow margin. With limited practices this week due to a rare Friday meet — the first one on the season for Rutgers — head coach Louis Levine does not expect any major adjustments.
“We are at that point in the season where it should be about just refining things,” he said. “So we will, for the most part, stick with our normal schedule. We don’t have to leave until later on Thursday, so we will even get practice in before the meet.”
The Knights know what they need to work on, and have confidence going into the meet. Confidence, however, can only get them so far.
Junior Jenna Crisalli said that at this point in the season it is all about fine tuning routines and working to perfect the little things.
“We are definitely focusing on the details in everyone’s routine,” she said. “But we are pretty solid so we just have to do it out there.”
The good thing about a short week is that a long week lies ahead in order for Rutgers to prepare for conference championships.
Levine has already told his athletes some of that time will be used for rest in order to get ready for the final stretch of the regular season and to ultimately gear up for the Big Ten Championships, hosted at the Rutgers Athletic Center on March 18.
“The nice part about having a short week is that it means that we have a couple extra days off after the meet for the girls to rest up and prepare for the rest of the season,” Levine said.
Considering how Rutgers came out in its first away meet this season, which saw a season-low score of 191.125, the Knights have certainly begun to step it up since.
Freshman Polina Poliakova, one of two Great Britain natives on the team, noted that the team has seen steady improvement over the course of its road slate.
“I think the team did really well,” she said. “We have significantly improved since our first away competition so we have just been trying to get better and better each time.”
Nevertheless, Rutgers knows their current scores are not going to cut it at the end of the season. They have yet to reach their full potential and will have to continue to improve if they want to get to that next level.
“A complete team effort that is going to take from our first routine to our last routine,” Levine said when asked what it will take to jump over the next hurdle. “We want to build momentum and keep it moving all the way until the end of the meet.”
Crisalli believes she and her teammates need to get into the spirit of competition a bit more, in order to see some better results.
“I think if we go out there and be more competitive and aggressive with our routines and doing what we do in practice out there, I think that we will be able to move up (our score),” she said.
Regardless, each meet, each event and each routine is a learning curve for these Rutgers gymnasts that adds valuable knowledge and experience to each of their careers.
Overall, the Knights have some work to do, and with only three meets left until the stacked Big Five Meet that will consist of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State and then the Big Ten Championships – they need to work fast.
“We are inching closer, but we are not quite getting all the way there yet,” Levine said.
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.