The Wildcats’ season came to a close Saturday night after a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Regional Championship in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The meet featured six of the top programs in the country, and UNH was joined by Auburn University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University and Pennsylvania State University.
“I think the team did well as whole,” said junior Meghan Pflieger, one of UNH’s top performers in the meet. “We had a couple mistakes, but we really pulled through.”
Pflieger paced the Wildcats on both the balance beam and floor exercise, scoring a 9.825 in each of the two events, placing her in 11th and 15th overall respectively.
“I’ve been a little shaky on beam the last couple of meets, so to be able to go out there and hit clean, and just be able to be confident in my skills was rewarding for me to be able to say I hit my last beam routine of the season,” she said. “For floor, it was a lot of fun. I didn’t feel any pressure from anybody else; I was very calm going into it, so being able to shine on my last routine was awesome as well.”
The team has faced many obstacles throughout the season, including injuries and illnesses, but head coach Gail Goodspeed has taken notice of the gymnasts who have stepped up in the wake of adversity.
“Lia Breeden stood out with a 9.8 on both beam and floor after a week of illness and limited practice,” she said. “She gave it everything she had to hit both sets. Courtney Bondanza also stood out as she stepped in on vaulting, and has hit solid routines on bars and beam after the early season loss of Casey Lauter.” Lauter hadn’t performed since Feb. 7 due to a leg injury, but returned for the team’s conference meet two weeks ago, and competed again at Regionals. The talented sophomore scored a 9.775 on beam. Bondanza scored a 9.750 on the vault, which was the first of her collegiate career, replacing All-EAGL First Team vault performer, sophomore Elizabeth Mahoney, who was out with an injury.
UNH’s highest team score of 48.900 was achieved on the uneven parallel bars, which included a 9.850 by freshman Danielle Mulligan, the team’s top individual score.
Coach Goodspeed described the season as a “roller coaster,” but said the team will learn and grow from its experiences.
“All but two of the 24 routines performed at Regionals will be back for next season, as well as the addition of at least four incoming student athletes who all have the ability to be all arounds,” she said. “We should continue to improve, and the experience gained by this year’s team competing at NCAA’s will be invaluable.”
Goodspeed, a 37-year veteran as head coach, is very appreciative of her staff, and credited that to being a significant reason for the program’s consistent success during her tenure, which includes 33 Regional Championship appearances in the 35 years that the NCAA has hosted women’s championships.
“It gets more difficult every year, and we are extremely proud of this team’s accomplishments,” she said.