The perceptive eye of Yale gymnastics head coach Barbara Tonry made the difference between a painfully tight defeat and a momentum-building victory heading into the Ivy Championship. A successful scoring challenge from the Eli sideline gave the home squad the points to push past the University of Rhode Island in Saturday’s meet.

Coming from a convincing win against Southern Connecticut on Feb. 10, the Bulldogs had to contend with a number of injuries in a tough battle against the Rams at Lee Amphitheater last weekend. The meet was not decided until the final moments, with the Elis triumphing by a miniscule margin of 187.8 to 187.775.

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“It shouldn’t have been as close as it was,” Jessica Tai ’07 said. “We had a lot more falls this week. Last week we only counted one.”

The small difference was the result of a Yale protest of a score on the bar routine. The judge had placed the starting value for the routine at 9.8, but the routine should have been weighted a 9.9. Although the Elis put in the protest immediately following the bars event, officials did not complete the review until the very end of the meet.

At least one Bulldog finished in the top three in every event. Alina Liao ’09 captured first place in the balance beam competition with a career-high 9.775. Close behind in second was teammate Lauren Tatsuno ’09, who boasted a score of 9.725.

On bars, Cynthia Leung ’08 competed despite having rolled her ankle during warm-ups, coming through with a solid landing and a score of 9.25. Jessica Blick ’07 nailed her routine, scoring a season-high 9.4 in the event. Liao placed third with a score of 9.5.

With only five competitors in the vault event, the pressure was high as each girl knew her score would count towards the team total. The girls performed competitively, with Miki Seltzer ’07 leading the Yale pack and placing second with a score of 9.65. Liao stuck her landing and had a season-high score of 9.55. Blick considered it to be the team’s strongest event of the day.

“There was pressure because we only had five vaulters and everyone knew their score would count, but everyone really stepped up,” Blick said.

Tai said she felt the floor routines and debut appearance of Sarah Hughes ’09 were the highlights of the meet. Hughes was not planning to compete, but after Leung opted to pull out of the floor routine at the last minute due to injury, Hughes stepped up to compete for the first time in her two seasons in New Haven.

Liao and Paul finished in second and third place, respectively, in the floor event, with impressive jumps and flawless tumbling.

“Even though Cynthia couldn’t compete, Sarah made a beautiful routine, and the jumps were great,” Tai said.

Looking toward the Ivy League competition, to be held at Penn, the Bulldogs plan to continue their focus on consistency in their routines.

“The skills are there [but] we just need to perfect the details,” Blick said. “We are working on upping our numbers and our consistency.”

If results up to this point are indicative, next week’s competition against Brown, Cornell and Penn should be close. The four teams have been posting similar scores in the past few meets.

Though Yale lost to Penn earlier this season, the Bulldogs have shown great improvement in the past few weeks and the team is looking for a shot to recapture the Ivy League title after last year’s loss to Cornell.

“Everyone has the potential to win,” Blick said. “It’s all a matter of who hits their routines, and that’s what we’re hoping to do.”