PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Jan. 22, 2014) – Returning home after winning a pair of meets in Ohio last weekend, No. 18 Rutgers gymnastics will host Brown Friday at 6:30 p.m. inside the Livingston Recreation Center. Fans are encouraged to wear black to the meet, with the first 100 entering receiving a black Rutgers t-shirt.
The meet will be broadcast live on RVision, presented by AT&T, on ScarletKnights.com. Danny Breslauer and former RU head coach Crystal Chollet-Norton will provide commentary.
· Meet Theme: Blackout (first 100 fans will receive a black Rutgers t-shirt)
· Poster distribution with post-meet autograph session
· Lucky Seats of the Meet (two tickets for Rutgers Cinema)
· T-Shirt Toss (beginning of the meet and after an RU gymnast scores a 9.7 or higher)
· Handstand Contest (winner receives a red iPod shuffle)
· Opportunity to register with Junior Knights Club
RUTGERS MEET PREVIEW
Rutgers has improved its team score in each of the three meets to earn a No. 18 national ranking. The team also ranks in the top 25 in all four events: balance beam (16), floor exercise (21), uneven bars (T-21) and vault (T-23). RU’s team average of 195.200 also is first in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League.
The Scarlet Knights are 5-0 for the third time in program history, matching the starts of the 1994 and 1978 teams. The 1978 team went on to begin the year 7-0.
Hitting the road for the first time last weekend, RU defeated both No. 21 Kent State in a quad meet and No. 19 Ohio State in their home arenas. Both meets came down to the balance beam, with the Scarlet Knights coming through to earn the wins. The victory over the Buckeyes was the first for the program over a Big Ten opponent.
Redshirt junior Luisa Leal (Cali, Colombia) continues to lead the team with a 39.200 all-around average, while senior Alexis Gunzelman (Tabernacle, N.J.) sits at 38.917. Fellow captain and redshirt senior Jenna Zito (Rockaway, N.J.) made her season debut at Kent State with three routines of at least 9.700, including a pair of scores to anchor the beam lineup. She had missed last year with an injury.
Brown enters the meet after putting up a 192.550 in a home quad meet in its season debut. It will be the fourth-straight season the Bears travel to Piscataway.
HEAD COACH LOUIS LEVINE Q&A
On back-to-back road meets: “I think it was a challenge, but I think it was a challenge that we needed to take. With the way the calendar works, you are allowed to get in two in a weekend to get to 13 meets. You want to get as many scores to choose from as possible. You don’t want to miss any opportunities to put up big scores. The team came through. I think besides the fact that it gave us an opportunity to get two scores, one of the biggest factors was it gave us a lot of time together as a team to grow closer. It is something that is going to pay off big-time in the long run over the season.”
On the team’s confidence: “I think it has [grown], absolutely. I think they believe in what we have been talking about all fall. The goal was to start fast and we’ve done exactly that. Being tied for 18th right now, that’s a seeded position at NCAA Regionals. That is something we are going to keep pushing for and we know that we have to get better to make that work. I think it was a really good thing. It is two good scores, two good wins on the schedule and we are going to keep trying to build off of this.”
On picking up head-to-head victories: “It’s sport, you always want to win. You don’t get into sports to lose. If you finish second place every single time, it gets frustrating. It’s nice to be undefeated and it’s something we will continue to try to push forward. In our sport, it is about the score and the fact that we put up those three 195’s to begin with is really just as important as it is that we got wins. I much rather put up a 195, then put up a 193 and win. The scores are definitely important and determine who go to NCAA Championships and who doesn’t.”
On the improvement on balance beam: “I have [seen improvement]. The confidence is there. Really the most impressive part of the weekend was that we were able to close out two meets with a lot of pressure on the last event and beam being that last event. We have some really great beam workers, and as we get a little bit healthier we are going to have some really big competition for those spots. I think we have the opportunity to be a very good, if not an elite beam team.”
On what’s to come: “If you watch the meet, you can see that there are things that we can do better. You can see better landings and those just add up. The difference between taking one little step and everyone sticking is five-tenths. You do that on all four events now your two points higher. We are still working to try to put together that perfect meet as a team. So far we have been good, but we haven’t been great and we can definitely be great.”
On a Friday’s home meet: “It is always exciting to come home and have a home meet. It is nice especially after a long weekend that you don’t have to travel again on the road. It is actually a pretty short week for us. We only get in two practices before the meet this weekend, but we are excited to see how we get a big crowd. The students are back so there should be a lot of energy in the gym especially with how well we’ve been doing. We are excited to start up.”
INTERVIEW WITH REDSHIRT SENIOR JENNA ZITO