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‘Cats clinch second at EAGL Championships: UNH’s strong finish punches its ticket to the NCAA Regional round

It was a busy spring break for the women of the UNH gymnastics squad.

The Wildcats had a quad meet against LSU, Oregon State and Texas Women’s University in Denton, Texas, on March 12. The team finished in third place behind the No. 3 Tigers and No. 13 Beavers, but followed up the meet with a strong runner-up finish at the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Championships.

EAGLs were hosted by the University of Pittsburgh, which won its first championship with a score of 195.675, just ahead of the ‘Cats (195.525), George Washington University (195.350) and North Carolina (194.975). North Carolina State and Towson were fifth and sixth with scores of 194.500 and 193.875, respectively.

“Everyone was really happy with how we did,” freshman Danielle Doolin said. “I’m just really excited with my performance.”

Doolin was named to the All-Tournament First Team for her floor exercise and all-around routines. Doolin recorded a career-high 9.900 on floor, which tied for second at the meet, and finished in fourth place in the all-around with a score of 39.150. She was also named to the All-Tournament Second Team with a 9.775 vault and a 9.800 beam routine.

Doolin was not the only Wildcat to earn First Team honors. Danielle Mulligan and Mackenzie Kerouac made the team on the uneven bars, Lia Breeden was the sole honoree on beam and also joined Doolin and junior Meghan Pflieger on the First Team for floor.

“Personally, it was so exciting,” Breeden said after the meet. “All the hard work paid off finally.”

Doolin and Breeden were the first UNH competitors of the meet, opening on beam for the team during the first rotation. Doolin expressed some anxiety before her first championship meet, but the duo came out with strong routines of 9.800 and 9.850 to get the Wildcats going.

“It was kind of nerve wracking,” she said, especially considering she was the first athlete to perform. “The nerves definitely subsided…after that, the meet kept getting better.”

The team scored a 48.875 on beam to begin the meet, then had a break before moving to the floor exercises. Breeden said that the solid performance on beam had the team feeling good heading into the second rotation.

“Our energy was super high after beam,” Breeden said. “It was exciting seeing the scores go up, and they kept going up.”

Breeden was the first Wildcat to perform on floor, and once again got the team off to a good start with her 9.850, which tied her season-high. Pflieger then followed up with a 9.875 score, before Doolin’s 9.900 routine. The three scores helped UNH score 49.100 on the floor exercises, which was the team’s highest apparatus of the day and kept the Wildcats in second place.

The fourth rotation was vault, which has been one of the Wildcats’ weaker events throughout the season. But the return of sophomore Marissa Toci from injury lifted the Wildcats. Toci recorded a career-high 9.800 to lead the team, which scored a 48.775. George Washington, then the first-place team, faltered in the fourth rotation, and UNH finished with sole possession of first place with a running score of 146.750.

The Wildcats were on bye during the fifth rotation, and Pittsburgh and George Washington finished the meet with strong performances. UNH came out for its final event, the uneven bars, needing a 48.95 to clinch the EAGL title.

Mulligan and Kerouac scored impressive 9.825 marks, but the team fell just short, finishing the event with a 48.775 and second place overall with a 195.525 score.

Despite not finishing as the conference champion, the Wildcats did earn the right to continue competing, finishing No. 33 in the country and qualifying for the NCAA Regional round for the 33rd time in UNH head coach Gail Goodspeed’s 35-year tenure.

“We were all very nervous that we wouldn’t make Regionals because we had a couple meets that didn’t go our way,” Breeden said, adding that the team is looking forward to another chance to compete against some of the nation’s top talent for a chance to improve its national ranking and potentially earn a spot at the NCAA Championships.

The Wildcats will find out which of the six Regional meets they will attend on Monday at 4 p.m. during the NCAA Gymnastics Selection Show. The potential landing spots are the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota and the University of Utah. The meets will take place on Saturday, April 2.

Wherever the ‘Cats end up, it has been another successful season, both in the gym and out. UNH not only placed second in the EAGL Championships, but earned nine different All-EAGL awards prior to the championship meet, headlined by Doolin’s Rookie of the Year honors. The team also named 16 athletes—over two-thirds of the team—to the conference’s All-Academic Team.

Doolin succinctly summed up the numerous awards the team has won this season.

“All the hard work is paying off.”

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