It may seem odd that even with a last-place finish at Penn State on Friday, the women’s gymnastics team was happier than ever with its performance this weekend. But the Elis argued that this meet’s standings were less important than the improvements they saw as their total team score rose by two and a half points over their previous season high — leaps and bounds by gymnastic standards.

The Bulldogs’ hosts, No. 17 Penn State, earned the gold medal with 196.025 points. The University of Nebraska had 195.474 points, good for second place. Rutgers finished with 190.55 points, and Yale trailed closely at its heels with 190.200 points.

Once again, the Eli freshmen set the tone for the team. Kimberley So ’09 gave her personal best performance this year and tied for fourth in the all-around competition with 38.675 points. On the vault, So captured ninth with Yale’s highest score of the event (9.825). So also performed solidly on the uneven bars, earning twelfth place with a 9.575. Fellow freshman Lauren Tatsuno ’09 led the Bulldogs on the beam, scoring 9.650 for a tenth-place finish.

And once again, it was the floor exercise in which the Bulldogs excelled. Alina Liao ’09 led the team with a ninth-place finish after posting a score of 9.8.

Several team members said they were pleased with the results, especially since the Bulldogs hit every routine on the floor exercise and vault.

“I think it was the most fun we’ve had this year,” Tatsuno said.

Team members said competing with strong gymnastics programs helps the Bulldogs step up their own performance level.

“Going against the bigger schools was exciting and the competitive environment was really driving us,” said captain Anne McPherson ’06, who was finally able to rejoin her team this weekend after an Achilles injury put her on the sidelines.

Another highlight of the competition was the Bulldogs’ close finish to Rutgers, a fellow member of the ECAC. Because Rutgers has a higher team average, several team members said their aim was not to defeat the Scarlet Knights, but rather to give them a run for their money.

“Our goal was to make them take notice that beating us wasn’t going to be so easy,” Tatsuno said. “We definitely accomplished our goal.”

Kim said it was beneficial to get exposure to Rutgers’ strengths and weaknesses, since there will be a rematch in the future.

“They were stronger than us on the beam, and we had a rough time,” she said. “That’s not typical of our gymnastics team.”

As the Bulldogs continue to perfect their routines and improve their consistency, Kim said defeating the Scarlet Knights would definitely be possible next time.

Before the Elis can try for revenge against Rutgers, they will face another important competitor next weekend. The University of Rhode Island is ahead of Yale in the ECAC standings by two and half points, and the Bulldogs will challenge them at home next Saturday, the final home meet for the Bulldogs this season. McPherson said she is hopeful her team can make up some ground.

“We have a lot of confidence coming out of this meet, and I think we could pull it off,” McPherson said.

The coming meets will only be more significant for the Bulldogs, with the Ivy League Championships scheduled for Feb. 26.