Despite strong team performances in the vault and floor exercise, the Yale gymnastics team was unable to bridge the gap in a narrow 191.475–191.900 home opener loss to a talented Penn squad this Saturday.
The Bulldogs got their first taste of Ivy competition against the Quakers, who edged out Yale for second at last season’s Ivy League Championships meet, in their bid to defend their ECAC Championship title. A strong Yale start to the afternoon with a 48.200 on the vault put the Elis in good position; however, a couple slips on the balance beam and uneven bars allowed Penn to take advantage. The Quakers shut the door on the Bulldogs with a stellar 48.575 on the beam, squeaking by and handing Yale its first dual-meet loss of the year.
First years stepped up for the Elis in the vault, even with Charlotte Cooperman ’21 absent while she recovered from surgery. Jacey Baldovino ’20 followed up her ECAC Rookie of the Week showing from last week with a solid 9.625. Her score was matched by fellow first year Alyssa Firth ’21, as well as sophomore Jade Buford ’20. Rebecca Chong ’20 led the team with a 9.725, the highest vault score of any Bulldog in the season thus far.
In the bars, Jessica Wang ’19, who sprained her ankle at the meet at Rutgers last week, scored an outstanding 9.800 to lead all competitors in the event. Following her was Roxanne Trachtenberg ’19, whose score of 9.625 was third highest at the meet. The team totaled 47.650 on bars, compared to the Quakers’ 47.700, and carried a running score lead of 0.850 points after two events.
“[Today’s performance] gives me confidence in the sense that I’m helping contribute to the team’s score and reaffirms my love of competing after missing it for a season,” said Wang, who competed in only her second meet since 2016. “I don’t focus too much on scores and just try to clean up my routines as much as possible.”
The balance beam proved to be a catalyst for Penn’s victory, its team score in the event outpacing Yale’s score of 47.300 by 1.275 points. Yale’s Kiara Alleyne ’19 put together a strong routine to earn a 9.725, the team’s highest beam score. Firth and Baldovino also impressed with respective scores of 9.550 and 9.575. In her first outing this season, Carly Israel ’20 posted a 9.425 to help the Bulldogs.
Having been overtaken in running scores heading into the Elis’ final event of the night, the Bulldogs strung together a series of impressive routines on the floor. All of Yale’s gymnasts scored over 9.475, with Sloane Smith ’18 kicking off strong, nailing her execution with a 9.625. Emma Firmstone achieved the highest score for the Bulldogs and tied for first in the competition with a 9.750, redeeming her 8.200 performance on the bars. Buford closed out her all-around with a 9.675, as did Baldovino with a 9.650.
Yale put forth three competitors in the all-around — Baldovino, Buford and Firth — to Penn’s one. Baldovino completed a great afternoon as the highest scorer with 38.350. Buford and Firth also had solid showings with respective scores of 37.875 and 37.175.
Although the Bulldogs regressed from their season-opening score of 191.550 last week, they still showed promise, with only a couple faults preventing them from improving on their last score. Their next stop on their title defense will be in Towson, Maryland this Friday against UNC and Ursinus College.
“It was obviously a little disheartening that we didn’t win against Penn, but it showed us where we stand and how we need to improve in order to win Ivies,” Wang said. “We also scored 3 whole points higher than our second meet last year so our team is really strong this year.”
In last year’s ECAC, which resulted in a Yale championship, Penn placed in 6th and last place.
Brian Yeo | email@example.com