Rutgers Gymnastics Rachael Riley vs. Penn State
Rachael Riley scored a career high 9.85 on the beam against Penn State, to mark her first career top-3 event finish. (Photo by Christopher Shannon - JSN)

Middle Rotations Betray Rutgers Gymnasts in Close Loss to Penn State

Piscataway - The Rutgers gymnastics team continued to show improvement, producing their best score to date this season, however mistakes on the uneven bars and balance beam ultimately cost the Scarlet Knights in a tight, 196.075-195.850, loss to Penn State.

The meet started out well for Rutgers.  Going in Olympic order as the home team, the Scarlet Knights started out on the vault where they posted a team score of 49.075, which put them in a slight lead after one rotation as a pair of Penn State miscues led to the Nittany Lions posting a lower, 48.850 on bars.  Rutgers was led on vault by Emily Leese's 9.9, good enough for a tie for first place on the event, and Gabrielle Dildy's 9.85.

The second rotation saw Rutgers start to run into trouble.  A fall, and concurrent low score, by Olivia DiNovi meant that the Scarlet Knights would have to count a 9.625 from earlier in the rotation. This contributed to a team score of 48.650 on bars while Penn State would net a 49.225 on vault to claim the lead after two rotations.  Scoring a 9.85 in the anchor spot, Avery Balser had the lone 9.8, or better, score on bars for Rutgers.

The woes continued for Rutgers in the third rotation as the Knights saw Dildy's and Leese's beam routine start values reduced due to either a missed element, or a missed connection between elements.  However, Rutgers did get some positive results on the beam.  Beyond Dildy and Leese, every other Scarlet Knight gymnast to compete on the beam scored a 9.8, or better, with Rachael Riley leading the way with a career high 9.85, and her first career top-3 event finish.  In the end, however, having two routines with either a missed element, or missed connection, ultimately led to Rutgers having to count Dildy's 9.55 and not being able to take advantage of some low scores from Penn State on the floor.

After their struggles in rotations two and three, the Scarlet Knights capped their meet on a high note.  Rutgers produced the sixth highest team score on floor in team history and all counted scores were 9.85, or above.  Leese, and Emily Wood, led the way on the event for the Knights with identical 9.875s, good enough for a four-way tie for first.

Elia Aird placed third, out of four competitors, in the all-around with a career high, 39.125.  Penn State's Ava Piedrahita won the all-around with a 39.450.

Up Next

Rutgers will be back in action Feb. 4 when they travel to Champaign, Ill. to take on No. 25 Illinois in another Big Ten dual meet.

Christopher Shannon