Gymnastics: Wildcats ready for regional championship
After being crowned the Eastern Atlantic Gymnastics League conference champion for only the second time ever this past Saturday, the UNH women's gymnastics team will be heading to the NCAA regional championship. The team waited patiently in the UNH gymnastics office until it was announced that the Wildcats received the fourth seed in the Penn State region. UNH will be competing against No. 1 University of Florida, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 15 Penn State, Kentucky, and Maryland.
"We feel good about this," senior co-captain Hannah Barile said. "We are competing against some very good teams, it's about who can do their job the best."
The Wildcats will be competing in postseason action for the 33rd time in 35 years under head coach Gail Goodspeed.
When asked what made this team so special, Goodspeed said it wasn't their gymnastics, but their different type of strength.
"This team is not the most talented team I have ever coached," Goodspeed said. "But they are mentally tougher than any team I've coached including the team that went to the national championship in 2004."
As the Wildcats prepare for nationals, their schedule will be demanding. With practice six out of the next eight days, the team will have to focus on getting ready mentally while staying as healthy as possible physically. After a long season, being healthy by this time is harder than ever.
"We have three freshman sick with the flu and numerous other girls have aches and pains," Goodspeed said. "We just have to treat all the girls with care."
As UNH begins to recover and prepare, Goodspeed made it clear that the practices the team will have will be mostly mental, without a lot of physical exertion.
Although this upcoming week's competition is much stronger, and the pressure to compete is much higher, Goodspeed and Barile say it will be business as usual.
"We will prepare the same," Barile said. "We can control what we do, not what the other teams do."
"It is about doing our job," Goodspeed said. "Our goal is always to hit 24 out of 24 sets and see where the cards fall from there."
The Wildcats have faced two out of the five teams they will compete against next Saturday, Maryland and Penn State. Goodspeed insists that they may know both of those teams well, but that doesn't matter.
Although UNH has hit a score of 196.000 or above in three out of the final four meets, the level of competition has just taken a big step up.
"Florida is scoring 198 consistently, Oregon State and Penn State hit 197 consistently," Goodspeed said. "We need to just do what we can to put ourselves in a good place."
Barile, Aucoin, and Pflieger have been pillars to the team's success on the back half of the season, but on this team there is no super star.
"We are a deep team," Goodspeed said. "And they all like being part of a team. Not alone as individuals."
The team will board a bus next Thursday morning and arrive at Penn State eight hours later. Friday, the Wildcats will practice and use the gym that the upperclassman competed in last year. The team will hit the mats April 5 at 4 p.m. for the regional competition.
"If we perform our best, anything can happen," Goodspeed said.
The top two teams at the end of the regional championship and the top-two all around performers at the meet will advance to the NCAA National Collegiate Woman's Gymnastics Championship on April 18.
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