Rutgers readies for Penn State in 3rd home competition of season
Building off of its highest total score of the season, the Rutgers gymnastic team will take on Big Ten foe No. 25 Penn State on Saturday at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).
The Scarlet Knights will face their fourth ranked team of the season in the Nittany Lions, as they competed against No. 16 Nebraska earlier in January.
“The mentality isn't going to change depending on who we compete against,” said head coach Umme Salim-Beasley. “We don't get intimidated by big gains or old reputations. Every team has to prove that they're great every single weekend, so we're going to go out and attack our routines the best that we know how.”
Last Saturday, Rutgers fell to Maryland, despite producing its best all-around score of 194.600, which was highlighted by a 48.775 on beam. Capturing the beam title was freshman Kiera Doherty-Herwitz with a career-best of 9.825.
Junior Shannon Farrell also produced an event title win on the uneven parallel bars with a career-high of 9.875.
Both Doherty-Herwitz and Farrell have shown consistent progress in the events and should be main contenders in such events this weekend. Neither of the two have competed in multiple events, so they could capture major points for the Knights this weekend.
“Our focus is going to be the same, just to go out there and hit as big as we can,” Doherty-Herwitz said. “There's going to be a lot more energy around competing against our rivals, but our focus in the gym will stay the same on every event, just trying to clean everything up and make everything as best as we can do it.”
Last week, Rutgers worked on its connections, as it became a major flaw in past competitions.
By honing in on their connections, the Knights were able to notch their season-high beam score against the Terrapins, so landings should be a key aspect to watch for during Saturday’s competition.
“The little details are the things that are holding us back,” Salim-Beasley said. “Some were missing some landings that needed to be stuck, so we don't have deductions there. We could probably add a point to our score just on landings alone. They're getting the confidence they need to hit their routines in any circumstance, so that will give them the opportunity to focus in more on the tiny things that they can make better.”
After falling to Ohio State and Minnesota, Penn State won its first conference matchup against Illinois with an overall score of 195.275. Sitting in the middle of the Big Ten, the Lions average a score of 195.3 with every competition above the 194 mark.
This season, the highest score for Penn State was 196.775 against the Golden Gophers.
For four consecutive weeks, the Lions recorded bar and floor scores above 49.000 to claim the event titles against the Fighting Illini. Penn State has a lot of consistent depth in both events, which is something Rutgers is still trying to work toward.
The Knights have only scored above the 49-mark once this season with a 49.300 on the floor exercise in their home opener against the Cornhuskers.
Since its competition against Nebraska, Rutgers has not had a standout event. It has fluctuated between all the events as its highest score on each competition. The Knights are going to have to put together a string of quality performances and transition their success from practice against their Big Ten competition.
“A stick is obviously what our goal is. We just perform the routines we know how, because that's what we do in practice," Farrell said.
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