Gymnastics: Wildcats barely lose to Penn State

By Sam Donnelly
On March 12, 2014

Last Saturday the UNH women's gymnastics team entered Lundholm gym to face Bridgeport University, George Washington University and nationally ranked Penn State.

UNH finished with a season high score of 196.675, but it wasn't enough to beat Penn State, who finished with their season high of 197.200. Although the team scored a season high, head coach Gail Goodspeed's competitive nature was evident.

"I really wanted to beat Penn State," Goodspeed said. "They are ranked 19th in the country and we matched up with them."

The Wildcats entered the day one an eight match-winning streak. Their momentum was evident right from the start when they scored 49.200 on vault including a personal high of 9.925 for redshirt freshman Kelsey Aucoin.

"We didn't warm-up on vault well," Goodspeed said. "But we came out a just stuck our sets which we didn't do on Monday in our last meet."

The team then moved to bars holding a slight lead over Penn State and George Washington after one event. Lauren Brodie and Janelle Minichiello stepped up on bars and both scored 9.875, which was good enough for a fifth place finish.

The Wildcats were neck and neck with Penn State with just two events left, one of them being the beam.

"We haven't hit cleanly all year on beam," Goodspeed said. "We worked on it and it paid off tonight."

Aucoin stepped up again scoring a career high 9.950, which was good enough for first place overall and Meghan Pflieger put up a 9.925, which put her third place. Kayla Gray followed up with a 9.785, which put her in fourth place. The Wildcats finished with a team score of 49.400, which is their highest score in that event since 2003.

With one event to go UNH trailed the meet leader Penn State by .02 points. The team headed to floor exercise where they have excelled all year. Hannah Barile, Erika Rudiger, and Erin Machado led the Wildcats by scoring 9.850 on their respective floor exercises. The team score came out to a strong 49.350, but in the end it was not enough to keep Penn State from claiming first place. The Nittany Lions scored an almost perfect 49.450 on vault in their final event.

"We weren't clean on floor, we are better than we performed." Goodspeed said. "Some of that was that we focused on winning instead of performing in that moment."

Aucoin received the Katie Baldwin Expression Award given out by head coach Goodspeed at the end of the meet for her outstanding performance. Aucoin posted two impressive scores on both beam and vault and really kept UNH in contention with Penn State by sticking her sets.

"We knew when we were recruited Kelsey that she was as good as she is," Goodspeed said, "She is aesthetically beautiful. It is called artistic gymnastics and she epitomizes that."

Ultimately, coach Goodspeed and the team left somewhat satisfied after a solid team and individual performance. Although they still have to visit the EAGL leading North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C. for a meet on March 16, the team is confident after posting their strongest scores of the season.

"The team had fun tonight," Goodspeed said. "We will be ready to perform for the rest of the season but this enhances our confidence."

The Wildcats return to Lundholm Gym on Friday, March 14 at 7 p.m. to face the U.S. Air Force Academy.

UNH will also host the 2014 Eastern Atlantic Gymnastics league Championship at the Whittemore Center on Saturday, March 22 at 2 p.m. UNH will seek its first league title since 2003. They will compete against George Washington, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Towson.

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