Despite posting the highest score in an opening meet in program history, the Yale gymnastics team fell to the University of New Hampshire Wildcats on Sunday, 195.9–191.175. The Bulldogs also had three of the top five all-around finishes, with Joyce Li ’15 in second, captain Morgan Traina ’15 in fourth, and Anna Merkuryev ’18 finishing fifth in her debut meet.
“I think as a team, we did a really great job,” Li said. “We made mistakes and they were fixable mistakes, so I think we have a great season ahead of us. We did [well] but we can definitely do better.”
Nine gymnasts competed, but because Merkuryev was the only freshman, the upperclassmen bore the brunt of the meet. The other three members of Merkuryev’s recruiting class are currently sidelined. Sloane Smith ’18 is recovering from a broken ankle that happened over the summer, Megan Ryan ’18 is fine-tuning her routines but will compete soon, and Allison Bushman ’18 sustained a minor concussion several days before the opening meet, according to Li.
Despite this setback, Yale still fielded a lineup that played to its strengths. Traina led the Bulldogs on uneven bars, where her score of 9.750 put her in fourth place. Brittney Sooksengdao ’16 and Traina tied for third place on beam with scores of 9.775. Camilla Opperman ’16 earned Yale’s highest score on floor exercise, with a score of 9.750, and Sooksengdao was next with a score of 9.625 that nearly tied her career-best on the event. Opperman and Traina, matching her career high, tied for the Bulldogs’ top score on vault with 9.675.
With three gymnasts tying for top scores and a fourth, Li, earning the highest cumulative score, the Bulldogs demonstrated the versatility of their lineup.
“The depth of our team is going to be our strength this year, if we can carry on,” Sooksengdao said. “The majority of us train all events and do it the best we can, which I think helps us keep our depth. I’m really proud of how everyone is pushing on each event.”
These showings were not enough to win individual events, however, as the Wildcats ultimately earned the top two scores on every apparatus.
Although the outcome was not ideal, team members spoke of positive takeaways from the opening meet.
“I think everyone did a good job putting forth what they were doing in practice,” Li said. “Everyone has been working super hard, and that definitely showed.”
Li cited vault as the most improved event and said she thinks the lineup will be much stronger than in past years. She noted that the freshmen in particular have strong vaults and predicted that their participation will boost team scores.
Opperman, Yale’s best performer on vault last season, agreed and added that the combination of talented freshmen and upperclassmen who have upgraded their vaults will help improve the team.
“For the early meets, I’m going to be doing a Kasamatsu,” Opperman said. “It’s actually a men’s vault. It’s a tuck full. I’m hoping to upgrade it to a layout.”
Performing the vault, which is a full flip and a full twist, in a layout position, rather than a tuck, will increase the vault’s difficulty level and therefore the maximum number of points it can score.
Though Yale can continue to improve in the gym, Li said that the team can do a lot more when not competing.
“We can bring up the energy a bit,” Li said. “You always forget how long meets are and it’s easy to get tired and stop cheering as much, but that really brings up the mood of the team. I think we can do a better job of maintaining that throughout the meet.”
The team traditionally begins each meet with a pump-up cheer called Roll Call. After a two-hour warm-up on the equipment, the Bulldogs huddle up for the cheer before marching out to present themselves to the judges and audience.
“It’s pretty fun,” Li said. “It’s like a little rhyme where we all go around and everyone has their own little skit where they say what their roll call is, and we do another rhyme. That gets people pretty pumped up.”
The Bulldogs will continue their season against a familiar Ivy League foe when Yale travels to the University of Pennsylvania to take on the Quakers on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 1 p.m.