This year’s gymnastics team might be the best Yale has ever had. But with such talent come lofty expectations.
The Bulldogs opened their season with a convincing victory at Springfield, Mass., Saturday, beating SUNY Cortland and Springfield College, but coach Barbara Tonry felt the team still had plenty of room for improvement.
“We did OK. I expect to do a lot better this coming weekend,” Tonry said. “Coming back off Christmas we didn’t have time to be thoroughly prepared. You just can’t take two weeks off and come out and play the next day.”
Tonry said the Elis needs to focus on increasing their consistency and confidence.
“But talentwise, this is potentially the best team I’ve ever coached,” she said.
Yale finished the meet with a final team score of 183.225, with SUNY Cortland and Springfield scoring 173.775 and 171.675, respectively.
“In terms of a starting point, it was all right,” Kathryn Fong ’05 said. “But we don’t consider Springfield and SUNY our top competitors.”
The Bulldogs had the meet’s highest scores in every event. Fong finished first on the uneven parallel bars with a 9.55 and tied for first on the balance beam with team captain Caroline Pignatelli ’02 with a 9.275.
Jamie Green ’04 won both the vault and the floor exercise competitions, with scores of 9.35 and 9.5, respectively.
This Sunday, Yale will host the University of Massachusetts, a meet which will likely prove more difficult.
Tonry said the team would be meeting three “tough schools” in the upcoming weeks, as Yale will face UMass, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Rhode Island.
“Penn is our biggest Ivy League competitor,” Pignatelli said.
But Tonry said she is confident that Yale will defend its Ivy League title.
Along with the Ivy League title, last year’s team almost won the ECAC championship. In fact, Yale was originally declared the winner, but it was later discovered that the official score sheet contained a clerical error. Once the error was rectified, the Bulldogs conceded the title to the College of William and Mary.
Although former captain Lisa Crowley ’01 and two other team members graduated last year, the return of Pignatelli from ankle surgery and Shoshanna Engel ’03 from knee surgery has bolstered the team’s lineup.
Saturday Pignatelli only participated on the balance beam, but she hopes to be vaulting by the end of the season.
In addition, three new recruits, Fong, Christine Lacy ’05 and Lisa Naito ’05, should help the Bulldogs improve on last year’s record-breaking season, Pignatelli said. Both Fong and Lacy were nationally ranked last year.
After the first meet of her collegiate career, Fong spoke highly of the team’s unity.
“We have really good team chemistry,” she said. “And [Pignatelli] is a great leader.”
This year, the team has had to cope with new rule changes that have made it more difficult to earn high scores. The new rules have called for a devaluation of skill levels, which means that gymnasts must perform harder routines to achieve the same scores.
“But every day we get stronger,” Pignatelli said. “The only place we’ll go is up.”