The gymnastics team was feeling confident about its performances going into spring break. Unfortunately, three straight losses has thrown the team off balance.

The Elis dropped a heartbreaker at the University of Massachusetts March 17, losing the dual meet to the Minutewomen 193.500 to 191.900, finished last out of three at the George Washington University tournament March 10 and finished sixth out of six at the March 3 North Carolina State tournament.

The team attributes its spring break sorrows to recent injuries that have sidelined all-around gymnast Shoshanna Engel ’03 and bar stronghold Sumitra Paul ’02, as well as poor performances on the beam.

Still, despite the disappointing losses, team captain Lisa Crowley ’01 said the team is using the spring break results as motivation for the upcoming ECAC tournament March 24 at Cornell.

“In terms of motivation, it’s best to go from low to high,” Crowley said. “Our chances at the ECAC are probably best in all my years here.”

According to head coach Barbara Tonry, the team had problems with the vault and bars over break, two areas in which they typically perform very well. But, aside from those problem areas, she was pleased with the spring performances.

“Otherwise, besides missing practice because of the snowstorm, they did well, especially at George Washington,” Tonry said.

The Bulldogs met powerhouse Massachusetts and saw their second best performance since they won the Ivy Classic Feb. 24. Not only was the average team point differential only 1.6, but individual performances were also quite close. In fact, no individual performer, for either team, lost by more than an average of .775 points in any of the four events — vault, bars, beam and floor.

Jamie Green ’04 won the vault with an average of 9.725, but was the only Bulldog to win any of the four events. Still, no single gymnast on either team won their respective events by more than .15 points.

Problems on the beam led to critical reductions, though, and probably cost the Elis victory. Four daughters fell off the beam, costing the team a total of two points.

“Only two out of our six performers were able to stay on the beam,” Tonry said. “What happened was they moved up, and we stayed the same.”

According to Crowley, had the team not suffered through its beam routines, Yale would have won by five-tenths of a point.

Nevertheless, the loss cannot be pinned to beam mistakes alone.

“They [Massachusetts] had a lot of misses too,” Andrea Wolf ’03 said. “So it could have easily gone either way.”

Wolf, Green and Jennifer Gold ’03 are three of the top five all-around gymnasts in the ECACs, meaning they compete in each of the four events. If they can manage to maintain their status through the weekend, all three will be competing in the NCAA regional meet April 7, even if their team does not move on with them.

But for now the team is focusing on winning the ECAC crown. Crowley is unsure whether a first place finish at this weekend’s tournament would advance the team to the NCAAs.

“We are trying to arrange workouts to help with beam and to develop a new mental strategy,” Crowley said.

The ECAC meet will include the University of Michigan, Penn State University and Rutgers, among others.

“We’re competing with the big guns, and it’s delightful,” Tonry said.

This is the team’s last opportunity to extend their season and continue competing. If the squad loses at ECACs, the team’s season is over, and only individuals will have the opportunity to advance to the NCAAs. So the team is focusing on finishing strong.

“It’s important to finish on a good note to leave the impression that we are a strong team,” Wolf said.

Though if the team is going to win, they will have to do it without Engel, a former all around performer, who will sit out because of injuries to both of her knees.

“It’s really difficult not to be here training with the rest of the team,” she said. “But they’ve worked to fill in the gaps left by [Paul] and myself.”

According to Crowley and Tonry, the winning team will come down to the one that is most consistent.

Tonry is focusing on improving beam exercises, their weak point in recent meets, and on regaining the momentum from their victory at the Ivy Classic in order to face the tough competition at the ECACs.

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