After a disappointing loss to Illinois State last weekend, Penn gymnastics is back on the road, this time for its first Ivy League matchup of the season.
While the Quakers have had a tough start, finishing fourth at the George Washington (GW) Invitational and narrowly falling to the Redbirds, the team has improved from week to week.
But despite their improvement since the beginning of the season, the Red and Blue are still young and facing problems.
Sophomore Elyse Shenberger, Penn’s top all-around gymnast, remains injured and out of the lineup. Additionally, the Quakers are hurting collectively as the graduation of its 2013 seniors and a delayed start to the opening of the team’s new facilities didn’t do the Quakers any favors in getting ready for the season
Last weekend’s matchup with Illinois State marked the first home meet in Penn’s newly renovated gymnastics facility. Because of delays in construction, the Red and Blue didn’t have the opportunity to get any advantage by training on the building’s new equipment well in advance.
As a result, Penn’s limited amount of time working in its new facility ultimately cost the team. Unable to spend extra hours training in a freshly renovated arena, the Quakers were forced to use older equipment while training.
Led by senior Diana Moock, the only all-around gymnast for the Red and Blue against Illinois State, as well as sophomore Carissa Lim and freshman Kelly Tan, Penn kept the matchup close. Thanks to the energy given to them by the friendly home crowd, the home opener could provide a much needed lift and some momentum for the team as it moves forward.
Additionally, the departure of the Penn gymnastics’ graduating class of 2013 has had deeper ramifications than most thought it might throughout the early portion of the season.
That class, highlighted by Dana Bonincontri, Kirsten Strausbaugh and Megan Milavec, was an integral part of coach John Ceralde’s lineup over the past several seasons.
Without players like Bonincontri, Penn has a new, sometimes inconsistent identity. A younger team than in years past, the Quakers have struggled in several places while competing, most evidently on the uneven bars, a position where Bonincontri was a staple throughout her four seasons.
Moreover, a lack of experience and consistency, plus less veteran leadership available to younger players than in previous seasons have combined to cause a rough start to the 2013-14 campaign.
Entering this weekend, there is much left for Penn to accomplish.
Saturday’s matchup marks the home opener for Yale. The Bulldogs have competed only once so far this season, finishing fourth in the New Hampshire Invitational last weekend.
Having only competed in two meets themselves, the Quakers could easily turn their season around with a few quick victories.
After last week’s close loss, the Quakers have all the tools and some momentum at their disposal to make waves as the season progresses.
And if Penn can get off to a quick start on Saturday and steal a win from the Bulldogs, there’s no limit to how far the team could go down the road.
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