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Before the season began, Rutgers head gymnastics coach Louis Levine figured freshmen would play a vital role in the team’s depth. But he could not have guessed that a freshman would serve as arguably the Scarlet Knights’ top gymnast. Despite odds against that happening, Jenna Williams has taken that title and ran with it. The Bordentown, N.J., native earned EAGL Rookie of the Week honors Feb. 5 for the second time this season, and with good reason.
During the course of the season, the Rutgers gymnastics team has strived for improved confidence and mental makeup in order to rise to an elite level in competition. While the Scarlet Knights have taken significant steps in this department since the Jan. 6 season opener, they believe some mental toughness is still lacking, especially in clutch situations. Rutgers was faced with only a half-point deficit after three events in Friday’s dual meet at Kent State, but the Knights could not capitalize.
Just when it appeared the Rutgers gymnastics team had turned a corner, the Scarlet Knights produced another incomplete performance in a 195.675-193.700 loss Friday at No. 24 Kent State. The Knights (7-6, 1-2) trailed the Golden Flashes (6-2) by just 0.500 score points after three events, but in the final rotation, Kent State pulled away. The team tallied only a 47.600 on the balance beam to complete the meet — its lowest total in the event since Jan. 6 in its season opener — while Kent State pulled away with a strong effort on the floor exercise.
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.
Junior Luisa Leal performed her season debut on the uneven bars Saturday at home, where she posted a score of 9.175.
Senior Danielle D’Elia competed in the floor exercise Saturday at the Livingston Recreation Center, where she performed a career-high score of 9.900. She led the Knights to a season-high score of 49.175 in the event. It was also the third-highest score on floor in program history.
Now that the Rutgers gymnastics team has hit the 195.000 score mark it sought all season, the biggest question mark becomes how the Scarlet Knights sustain the success and prove it was not a fluke. The Knights rode their home crowd to their best performance of the season Saturday, but now they return to the road for three weeks. Rutgers does not have the luxury of competing inside the Livingston Recreation Center again until March 2, and the possible impact cautions the Knights. “We just have to remember what mindset we were in when we were in that moment,” said senior Danielle D’Elia.
Sophomore Luisa?Leal recorded a 9.825 score on the balance beam, as did senior Emma-Rose Trentacosti and freshman Jenna Williams in Saturday’s quad meet at the Livingston Recreation Center. Rutgers’ score of 48.850 on the beam was the third best in school history.
Setting several career highs and compiling the third-highest team score in program history at 195.000, the Rutgers gymnastics team swept their home Alumni Meet on Saturday, besting Pittsburgh (194.625), Brown (191.850) and Southern Connecticut (188.525). “I think that we’ve been ready to do this the whole year, and it finally came together,” said junior co-captain Alyssa Straub. “And we’re going to keep doing it. We’re ready to keep doing it. This is who we are.” Only 0.125 points separated the Knights (7-5, 1-2) and Pittsburgh (5-5, 1-2) entering the final event rotation.
Senior Danielle D’Elia competes on bars in the Knights’ quad meet Saturday.
When the Rutgers gymnastics team left University Park, Pa., without a win Saturday, a collective feeling of an opportunity that slipped away lingered. The Scarlet Knights were only 0.350 score points shy of toppling then-No. 22 EAGL foe Pittsburgh before ending the quad meet with their worst score on balance beam since the Jan. 6 season opener. The Knights (4-5, 0-2) now return to the Livingston Recreation Center tomorrow for their annual Alumni Meet, when they have a chance at redemption against the Panthers (3-4, 1-1). Brown (5-0) and Southern Connecticut (2-3) will also compete.
Senior Danielle D’Elia must lead Rutgers without one of its top gymnasts.
In the wake of a season-ending injury to a team captain Jan. 19, the Rutgers gymnastics team needed a spark — something to help soften the blow from the loss of senior Jenna Zito, a point-scorer and leader. The Scarlet Knights received that spark from junior Luisa Leal, former EAGL Rookie of the Year and NCAA Regionals qualifier in 2011. Leal made her season debut Saturday at Penn State, leading Rutgers on vault by capturing fifth place in the event with a score of 9.775. As a freshman, Leal put together one of the strongest rookie campaigns in program history.
Head coach Louis Levine is likely to use junior Luisa Leal on the uneven bars and balance beam Saturday at home.
After the Rutgers gymnastics team’s home opener Jan. 12, when it barely notched a 48.000 overall score on floor exercise, it appeared as though some of the Scarlet Knights may have lost a step as performers.Through two meets, floor exercise was statistically the Knights’ second-worst event. Head coach Louis Levine stressed the team could not continue leaving points on the floor if it expected success going forward.The Knights have apparently received the message.
Rutgers head gymnastics coach Louis Levine said Thursday that last Saturday’s meet at Penn State would serve as a good barometer of where the team stands nationally. If nothing else, defeat at the hands of three big-name schools serves as proof for the Scarlet Knights (4-5, 0-2) that more work is in order for complete performances. But the exact cause of the Knights’ fluctuations in events from week to week remains a question mark for Levine.
Junior co-captain?Alexis Gunzelman said the Knights need to practice with more purpose after the team’s meet at Penn?State.
The Rutgers gymnastics team traveled to University Park, Pa., Saturday knowing it would have to be at its best to compete with the most challenging field it has witnessed.The Scarlet Knights put forth their second-best team score of the season — a 193.225 — but the mark was not enough to capture a victory, as the Knights finished behind No. 22 Pittsburgh (193.575), Iowa (195.325) and host Penn State (195.500).
Junior Luisa Leal participated in her first meet since Jan. 20 after sustaining an undisclosed injury. Head coach Louis Levine put Leal on the vault.