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A bar above the competition

The Wildcats only have four home meets this season, but so far they’re making the most of their opportunities to perform in front of the home crowd. UNH hosted the University of Bridgeport, Brown University and Towson University for the Wildcat Invitational, and walked out as the top team.

UNH scored 195.550 points by posting the top team score on three of the four events. Bridgeport was second, with a 194.575, followed by Towson’s 194.525 and Brown’s 192.150. Leading the way for the Wildcats were freshman Danielle Mulligan and senior Kelsey Aucoin, who both posted scores of 9.925, on the uneven bars and beam, respectively.

UNH head coach Gail Goodspeed raved about Mulligan’s uneven bars performance, which was the top score at the meet.

Mulligan has been UNH’s top performer on bar in five of the team’s six meets, the one exception being the meet against Pittsburgh, where she had a nasty fall. In every other meet, she’s scored at least a 9.850 or better.

“I think I was just being too hard on myself,” Mulligan said of the fall. “That’s why I messed myself up. I have to just trust myself and do what I know how to do instead of overthinking it.”

Since the fall, Mulligan has been nearly flawless, tying her career-high with a 9.900 at last weekend’s meet at Yale, and then following it up with a new career-high of 9.925 at Sunday’s meet.

“Most human beings can’t do that,” Goodspeed said, explaining the eagle grip that makes Mulligan’s bar routine so unique. “It’s among the best in the country, in terms of the difficulty.”

Mulligan wasn’t the only Wildcat freshman to earn her coach’s praise, however. Danielle Doolin, the Eastern Atlantic Gymnastics League’s Rookie of the Week for three straight weeks, was second in the all-around competition and logged the second best score on floor.

The Wildcats also received contributions from freshmen Erin Carroll and Nicole O’Leary, who competed on vault and floor, and Courtney Bondanza, who scored on the uneven bars.

“You look at every event, vaulting, bars, beam, floor, there are freshman in every single spot,” Goodspeed said, praising the class’s ability to step in for injured regulars. “Gymnastics is a little unique. The freshman don’t come in and get a year of experience. They get in and they’re counted on immediately.”

While the freshmen performed well, the upperclassmen have formed a strong backbone for the team, which entered the meet as the No. 22 team in the country. Aucoin’s beam routine led the ‘Cats, who are currently the No. 3 beam team in all of college gymnastics.

At the halfway point of the season, the injuries have begun to pile up for the Wildcats, which has given less experienced members an opportunity to step up. Notably, sophomore Casey Lauter and junior Meghan Pflieger were battling soreness, and sat out of some events—the duo are typically fixtures at the top of the standings in the all-around.

Marissa Toci, one of the team’s vaulters, is also battling hip issues. But Goodspeed’s squad was able to flash some depth, with Carroll and junior Jennifer King scoring identical 9.700 scores on vault, which was good for second place overall at the meet, behind sophomore Elizabeth Mahoney.

The Wildcats return to competition on Saturday, Feb. 13 for the “Stick It for the Cure” meet against Southern Connecticut State University. The meet starts at 7 p.m. in the Lundholm Gymnasium, and Goodspeed is encouraging fans to wear pink.

“Whatever we can do to promote people wearing pink and coming in and being here to support survivors, and people that we’ve lost,” she said, adding that the team would be donating to the Seacoast Cancer Center at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital.

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