Rutgers strives for perfection in home finale

<p>Senior Alyssa Straub leaves Rutgers as one of the best vaulters in school history.</p>

Senior Alyssa Straub leaves Rutgers as one of the best vaulters in school history.

In a sport that is defined by tenths and hundredths of a point, even a season-best score leaves plenty of room for improvement.  

The Rutgers gymnastics team will aim to make those improvements this weekend in its final home competition of the season.

The Scarlet Knights (13-2) hit on all four events for a score of 195.825 last weekend, which showed the potential Rutgers has when it puts together clean routines.

“It just really proves what we can do when we put it all together and there’s still a lot more room for improvement … there’s still so much we can do,” said senior Alyssa Straub.

Head coach Lou Levine recognized the record-breaking score was simply a step in the right direction.

“I think that every person in this gym still knows we can do better than we did this weekend,” Levine said. “It’s definitely a huge step forward that we want, but nobody’s satisfied with what we did. We left a tenth here and there out there that can add up to a record-breaking score.”

Those tenths did not go unnoticed by senior Alexis Gunzelman, who pointed out the importance of the details.

“There’s definitely little tenths that we can gain back,” Gunzelman said. “Landings on at least half of the events and little things like pointing your toes, and straightening your legs and locking out your arms.”

Gunzelman has frequently been the only Rutgers gymnast to compete in the all-around but says that competing in four events does not add any pressure.

“It really doesn’t [add pressure] because I train these events every day and you get comfortable in a position,” Gunzelman said. “For me it allows me to just focus on the one event while I’m on it. … I think that it just keeps me focused on what I need to get done on the event that I’m on and then progress forward.”

Straub hit a career-high on vault, scoring a 9.875 last weekend at Cornell. Like her teammates, the Nazareth, Pa., native is not content.

“That was the third time I’ve gotten [a 9.875] so I’m ready to do better,” Straub said. “I’m ready to break it again and just keep going.”

The Knights host Southern Connecticut, Towson, Yale and No. 17 Central Michigan in a five-team meet that will also serve as senior day.  

Rutgers will honor Gunzelman, Straub, Jenna Zito and Alexandria Ivol.

“Alexis [Gunzelman] is going to leave here as one of the best all-arounders we’ve ever had’” Levine said. “Alyssa [Straub] is one of the best vaulters we’ve ever had. [Alexandria Ivol]’s been a consistent bar worker. Jenna Zito, who’s in her fifth year gets her second senior meet, has just been a team leader on events and off events. She just stepped up all over the place.”

The finality of Saturday being the final meet for the seniors was not lost on Straub.

“I’m not ready to break up with gymnastics,” Straub said. “But it’s here so hopefully I’ll just cry now and be OK for the meet.”

Levine expressed what the seniors have meant to the program.

“They’ve meant a lot to this program. They’ve been here in the good times and the bad times,” Levine said. “They were here when I first took over as head coach and they’ve really been the driving force this year in how we want to do things. They’ve stepped up and made it accountable for everyone else to step up.”

For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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