By Andrew Yourell, Staff Writer
The word of the night Saturday was “bittersweet,” as the Wildcats honored their senior gymnasts. Head coach Gail Goodspeed led a touching tribute to the seniors as they competed in their last home meet against the University of Pennsylvania.
The ‘Cats won the meet by a score of 195.475-192.775, raising their record to 12-6 on the year. The win helped cap off an undefeated home record of 7-0 this season.
Senior co-captain Kayla Gray took the meet’s top spot on the beam with a near-flawless routine that earned a 9.875.
“It’s really an absolute sin that Kayla has back issues so that we couldn’t continue to use her as an all-around this year,” Goodspeed said.
The uneven bars caused her back problems to flare up, which negatively impacted her beam routine, so Goodspeed decided to limit Gray to beam. In her tribute to the seniors, Goodspeed remarked that Gray’s quiet strength and elegance “have anchored one of the most talented beam squads in UNH history.”
Adrienne Hill competed on vault and beam for the ‘Cats. Her 9.750 on vault tied for third place, and she scored a 9.625 on beam. Like Gray, Hill has struggled with injuries in her past, missing her entire sophomore season because of concussions.
“Adrienne has just been rock solid,” Goodspeed continued. The head coach lauded the senior for returning to competition despite the injuries, noting that many athletes would not have worked as hard as she did to come back.
Erika Rudiger, the team’s other senior captain, tied with Hill and freshman Maria Toci on vault with a 9.750. Rudiger struggled on floor, landing out of bounds on one of her passes to compile a 9.550, but on the uneven bars, the senior tied for gold with MaKenzie Kerouc by scoring a 9.875.
“It was really exciting, you know, it’s bittersweet,” Rudiger said of competing at Lundholm for the last time.
Rudiger is a walk-on, who Goodspeed said earned her teammates’ respect because of her leadership, passion, and hard work. She was also named as UNH Student Athlete Development Director Cathy Coakley’s “best intern” during the tribute ceremony.
In the all around competition, sophomore Meghan Pflieger scored a 39.325 to win her seventh all-around title in her last eight meets. She earned the top score on vault and floor (9.800 and 9.850), tallied a silver medal on beam with a 9.850, and third on bars with a 9.825.
“We did our job, we came in and hit what we could…I think it’s just a lot about consistency and I’ve been working really hard in the gym making sure everything’s consistent and it pays off,” Pflieger said.
She also had high praise for her senior teammates, saying she has no doubts they’ll be as successful in the real world as they have been in gymnastics.
The Wildcats head to Louisiana this weekend for a pair of away meets before the East Atlantic Gymnastics League meet on March 21. The first meet is a tri-meet that will take place on Friday, March 13 at Centenary College between UNH, Centenary, and Louisiana State.
LSU is currently the second ranked team in the country, and Goodspeed thinks that they are a team that could compete for a national championship at the end of the season.
“Usually when we go into meets, we don’t watch the other teams at all,” she said. “This is the meet where I’m going to let them watch the other team, because it’s inspirational to see the best teams in the country, I think.”
The Wildcats will then return to Centenary for a dual meet on Sunday night, March 15.
The ‘Cats are currently the top-ranked team in the conference, and look to defend their title on March 21, when the EAGL Championships take place at George Washington in Washington, DC.