Nationally-ranked No. 21 Penn State and No. 22 West Virginia ran roughshod over the Yale and University of Rhode Island gymnastics’ teams at Penn State Jan. 31.

URI edged the Bulldogs by less than a tenth of a point, but both teams fell to their nationally ranked opponents by more than five points — a significant margin in gymnastics.

Nevertheless, the 2003 Ivy League Champion Elis remain confident that they can continue to improve and be competitive with league opponents as many key competitors return to the lineup and the team’s scores continue to rise.

Jamie Green ’04 said that despite the razor-thin margin of a loss to Rhode Island, the team’s morale is high.

“The meet was disappointing because we were so close to Rhode Island, but the other two are among the top in the nation,” Green said. “A lot of our injuries are healing, so we’re optimistic. We’ve been scoring pretty close to the other Ivy teams, but we have about a month before the Ivy Championships, so we should be in shape by then.”

The Elis swept the ECAC Gymnastics awards this week, with Green winning ECAC athlete of the week, Leeron Avnery ’06 receiving the coach’s choice award, and Suchitra Paul ’07 scoring her first ECAC rookie of the week award.

Avnery said a lot of the team’s difficulties so far this season have been because of injuries and inexperience.

“A lot of the problem was that we still have a lot of injuries,” Avnery said. “Sometimes we have to put up people who aren’t quite ready to be competing, so we had to count some falls.”

The team also lost six seniors to graduation last year, and although they have been replaced by five very promising freshmen, Avnery said the seniors are missed.

“All six seniors were strong personalities and were important in leading the team and getting us pumped up before meets,” Avnery said. “Now the whole dynamic of the team has switched, since there are five freshmen.”

Nevertheless, the Elis often find themselves missing some injured freshmen as much as they miss their senior leadership. Jessica Tai ’07 was out for several weeks with a sprained ankle, and Miki Seltzer ’07 is still out with a similar injury.

“Miki competed the second week and she did really well on floor and vault so we can’t wait to get her back for those,” Avnery said.

Paul said that, as a freshman, she was still adjusting to the college gymnastics setting.

“I’m still dealing with the different training style in college. Getting off of winter break was a little tough, but each meet the team is getting better and better.”

On Saturday, the Elis face in-state rival Southern Connecticut State University at home. The team is excited to fight for its first win.

“We’re getting more and more confident every time we compete,” Avnery said. “We’re getting people back in the lineup. We just need to clean up our routines and make sure we stay on and we can beat them.”

After all, the Ivy League Championships are less than a month away, and the Bulldogs are always ready for a repeat.