Head coach Gail Goodspeed is no stranger to the postseason. In her 38 years of coaching the UNH gymnastics team, it has qualified for the postseason 36 times.
The UNH gymnastics team will travel to Gainesville, Florida to compete in the NCAA Regional against some very stiff competition on Saturday, April 1. There are six NCAA regionals taking place across the United States on Saturday and the top-two teams from each regional will advance to the NCAA National Championships in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Wildcats enter the regional as the No. 30 ranked team in the country after another successful year. Goodspeed’s team finished the year 7-0 at home, 21-6 overall and with a second-place finish at the Eastern Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Championships on March 18. After finishing the season with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 195.745, UNH was ranked 30th in the country and awarded its 34th NCAA Regional appearance in the 36 years the NCAA has held the national tournament.
“We’re ranked fourth out of the six schools going so the next couple weeks before we travel are going to be a lot of focus on detail and getting us ready to compete,” senior co-captain Jennifer King told UNH Athletics after the announcement.
It’ll be an uphill battle for the Wildcats to qualify for the national championships, in large part due to the highly ranked competition that’ll be in Gainesville. The Gainesville Regional consists of the Wildcats, University of Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Penn State and North Carolina. Florida and Georgia are both ranked in the top-10 in the country, with an RQS above 197.000, and are the presumptive favorites to move on to St. Louis.
The ‘Cats competed against EAGL-foe North Carolina twice this season, losing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and exacting revenge by finishing ahead of UNC in the EAGL Championships.
In addition to the top-two teams qualifying for the national championships, the winner of each event will move on, in that event only, if they aren’t a part of a qualifying team. Also, the top-two all-around performers that aren’t on a qualifying team will have the opportunity to compete in St. Louis.
UNH”s best chances for either of those designations are senior co-captain Meghan Pflieger and sophomore Danielle Mulligan. Mulligan has been elite on the uneven bars all season, and won the event at the EAGL Championships with a score of 9.875. Her career-high of 9.925 indicates she is surely capable of winning the event at the regional.
Pflieger, the EAGL Senior Gymnast of the Year, could individually qualify for nationals in the all-around or even in the balance beam or floor exercise. With good scores in all four events in Gainesville, Pflieger could extend her Wildcat career one more meet.
If the Wildcats have any chance at qualifying as a team for the national championships, Pflieger will need one of her best performances as well as the help of her teammates.
“We’re just really excited. It’s amazing; I’ve been following Florida since I was a freshman,” Pflieger told UNH Athletics about competing in Gainesville. “We’ve competed against them before but it’s going to be cool going out with a bang [my] senior year seeing Florida again at regionals.”
Last season, the Wildcats traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the regional round and finished in sixth place with a disappointing score of 193.900. UNH will look to improve its score in this year’s regional and maybe surprise the likes of Missouri and Georgia. The regional will begin on Saturday, April 1 at 4 p.m.