Gymnastics: Wildcats 'starting to gel' after third straight win

By Josh Sullivan
On February 18, 2014

The Wildcats gymnastics team won its third meet in a row Saturday, defeating Brown University and Centenary College in a tri-meet and scoring above a 195 for their third consecutive competition. What started off as a slow season has quickly turned it around. A team that has been prone to falling behind early on stormed out of the opening rotation with stout determination while never looking back, finishing with a score of 195.975, the highest the 'Cats have scored this season.

"It's huge," head coach Gail Goodspeed said about the score. "That's where this team needs to be, and we need to continue to be there. They're starting to gel as team and they now know they can do it. It's confidence."

"It's a really good feeling to know that we're starting to perform this way," junior Erika Rudiger said. "We've really turned the corner from the beginning of the year."

The Wildcats swept the competition, having the top three scorers in all four exercises, even the uneven bars, an area that Goodspeed has identified as the team's largest weakness on more than one occasion. Lauren Brodie scored a 9.825, a personal-best, to tie with teammate Rudiger for the top spot, while senior Janelle Minichiello took third place with a 9.775.

"Today was a good turnaround," Rudiger said. "In the beginning we struggled a bit with bars but today was a good feeling."

"We definitely have been putting the time in during practice to get confident hitting those sets," senior Hannah Barile said, "and [associate head coach] Ed's been putting some pressure on us to step up so doing what we do in practice in our meet is what we expected to do today."

The meet was UNH's "Stick It For A Cure" meet, where all three squads wore leotards with pink in them, and the entire meet was dedicated to breast cancer awareness. The meet was sentimental for many of the gymnasts, but perhaps none more than Minichiello, whose grandmother passed away last year from cancer. The senior responded by finishing third in uneven bars, fifth on balance beam, and a third place finish in floor exercise that she capped off with a kiss and pointed upwards towards the sky, no doubt a homage to her late grandmother. 

"This was a good, positive meet for Jannelle, but a sad meet too." Goodspeed said. "I think that Jannelle has been good and solid for us all year, but tonight, Jannelle was spectacular. I think she was underscored on beam because she was the first one up. I thought she was a 9.9, and had I put her fifth or sixth, she would have been a 9.9."

The underscore was due to a habit judges have that tends to underscore the first gymnast in a rotation, because they have yet to see the rest of the field perform, and have nothing to compare the set to. However, it is widely known among both coaches and gymnasts that whoever is early on in the order will be giving up individual accolades for the benefit of the team. Jannelle knows this too, yet has no problem starting off for her teammates.

"She starts us on floor, she starts beam, she's second on the bars," Goodspeed said. "And as a senior, she takes that role because she likes going first and being able to relax and watch the rest of her team during the even. We began the year with Erin starting us off, and I asked her about going first and she said, 'I love going first, let me go first,' and that's just something you don't see, a senior giving up their individual accolades for the team."

Freshman Meghan Pflieger won the all-around event with a score of 38.775, her third victory in as many meets, and did so by securing a second place finish in vault with a score of 9.800.

The Wildcats look to continue their success in a tri-meet against Towson and William & Mary Saturday, Feb. 22 at the SECU Arena in Towson, Md. The meet will begin at 7 p.m.

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