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When the Rutgers softball team takes the field in Fairfax, Va., this evening for the start of its second tournament, senior shortstop Ashley Bragg said the team plans on doing two things: loosening up and playing ball. “We want to be up for games and excited and ready to play,” Bragg said. At the Patriot Classic, the Scarlet Knights first play host to George Mason (2-4) on Friday, followed by a doubleheader tomorrow with Rider (1-3) and George Mason and a doubleheader Sunday with Cornell (0-0) and the Patriots for a third time.
As the Rutgers softball team prepares for its second tournament this weekend, the focus is on finishing games to improve upon its pedestrian 2-3 record. Over their first five games at San Antonio from Feb. 15-17, the Scarlet Knights scored only 3.2 runs per game and posted a .296 on-base percentage. Aside from an outlier final contest in which Rutgers exploded for nine runs, the Knights averaged exactly one run per game prior to that.The scarce offensive production offered little help to a defense that had its way with opposing hitters.
When Danielle D’Elia tries to reflect on her Rutgers gymnastics career, all she can think about is how quickly the time has passed. The senior said her debut for the Scarlet Knights as a freshman a little more than three years ago feels like hardly a distant memory. As she cringes at the thought of her final home meet Saturday, D’Elia is most proud to have been integral in something special. Over the last few years, Rutgers has seen an improvement from years past.
Despite witnessing his team fall short of first place on the road for the third consecutive week, Rutgers head gymnastics coach Louis Levine had almost nothing negative to say about the Scarlet Knights. Even if it does not always show up on the scoreboard, he can see his gymnasts improving. Even when Rutgers finished third Saturday at No. 13 Denver –— in its first quad competition since Feb. 2 — Levine took it as another stepping stone in a process priming the Knights for a historic postseason.
With only four meets before the EAGL Championships, the Rutgers gymnastics team needs a full effort as it hopes to build on last week’s highest road score in program history. Since losing senior co-captain Jenna Zito to an injury Jan. 19, the Scarlet Knights have responded. Rutgers stumbled to a 193.213 score average in the first four meets of the season. It has averaged a score of 194.583 in the three meets since. Unexpected contributions from freshmen and the health of others have the Knights in prime position for a strong final month of the season.
Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood announced yesterday the signing of new offensive coordinator Ron Prince and promotion of Dave Cohen to defensive coordinator. Prince brings more than 20 years of coaching experience at both the collegiate and professional levels. He worked in the NFL last season as the assistant offensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars and for the Indianapolis Colts in 2010 and 2011.
Alexis Gunzelman said Jan. 28 much work was in order for the Rutgers gymnastics team to reach the top 36 nationally by the end of the season. The junior co-captain was right. The Scarlet Knights were coming off a third-worst season score of 193.225 at Penn State only two days earlier. Since then, the Knights have made a concerted effort to raise their intensity and mindset in practice, and the results reflect the change. In three meets since the Nittany Lions, Rutgers reached a team score of 195 twice — something no other team in program history had done once in almost 13 years.
After losing nearly half of its home run production from last season, the Rutgers softball team is searching for a new offensive leader in the power department. The Scarlet Knights may have already found that leader in junior outfielder Loren Williams. In Rutgers’ first tournament at San Antonio last weekend, Williams proved to be the team’s best hitter statistically. The Los Angeles native led the team with a .467 batting average, .500 on-base percentage, five runs scored, seven hits and eight total bases in the five-game series.
Forget the fact the Rutgers gymnastics team placed last in its road tri-meet Sunday with No. 18 Maryland and West Virginia. For head coach Louis Levine, the Scarlet Knights eclipsing the 195 score mark for the second time this season served as vindication of what he has asserted all along. Before the season, he insisted the Knights’ depth was something unseen in recent program history, and the results justify his claim. Rutgers’ team score of 195.050 in College Park, Md., was its highest all-time on the road and third highest in any building — surpassing the 195.000 season-high score it reached at its Feb. 2 home Alumni Meet.
Taking to the diamond for the first time since the fall, the Rutgers softball team made a mission to establish effective hitting in the University of Texas at San Antonio Classic. Head coach Jay Nelson said Feb. 12 he wanted to see how the Scarlet Knights carried themselves against opposing pitchers after hitting off teammates and machines in the preseason. By Rutgers’ fifth and final game of the tournament Sunday, the transition culminated with a 9-2 blowout in a rematch with Boise State.
The Rutgers softball team kicks off its season today for the San Antonio Classic at Texas, where through Sunday it plays the first five of 24 straight games away from home. For more than three weeks, the Scarlet Knights have practiced at the Louis Brown Athletic Center and the Rutgers Indoor Practice and Conditioning Facility. Now the Knights face the task of translating their game outdoors for the first time since the fall. “The challenge is we go from a bubble with turf to being outside on dirt, which the playing surface is a lot different,” said head coach Jay Nelson.
Officially halfway through a season littered with ups and downs, the Rutgers gymnastics team gets another opportunity this weekend to prove the mental game philosophies it has preached. For weeks the Scarlet Knights have stressed a mindset that is focused, consistent and stable under pressure. But putting it all together has been easier said than done. During the last three weeks, the Knights have been sporadic. They were swept by three teams Jan. 26 at Penn State, conquered three at home Feb.
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.
There are several promising new faces on the Rutgers softball team this season, but one rookie that figures to quickly play a vital role is freshman pitcher Dresden Maddox. Since arriving, the Kennesaw, Ga., native has stayed positive and optimistic through what has been a challenging but fulfilling transition. “It’s been really exciting since I’ve gotten here,” Maddox said. “It’s been hard, but I think we’ve put a lot of hard work into it, and I’m really excited for the season to start because of all the hours we’ve put in.”
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.
The Rutgers softball team had qualified for the Big East tournament three years in a row for the first time in team history. But three consecutive times, the Scarlet Knights have fallen in the first round. Rutgers feels a sense of urgency this season to take a leap forward as a program. “We have to get to the next level,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “There’s a clear level between the top of the conference and No. 5 through the rest of the conference.”Led by four seniors, the Knights come in with a mindset firmly seeking to move past a postseason barrier that has halted the team’s championship aspirations repeatedly.
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.
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.