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Sophomore Edie Noor Graber competed in the vault and floor at last week's Lindsey Ferris Invitational.

Credit: Will DiGrande

A challenging opponent can be the best motivation.

Penn gymnastics faces a tough test this Sunday when Big Ten foe Rutgers travels to Philadelphia. After starting the 2020 season with a tight loss in their first dual meet against Towson, the Red and Blue are hoping to secure a win this time around.

The girls have the advantage of competing at home in the Palestra, which might provide the edge needed to reach the win. While the Quakers finished third out of four teams at last week's Lindsey Ferris Invitational in Washington, D.C., their team score improved by over a full point from the Towson defeat — 191.425 to 192.850.

Looking back at their last two meets, junior Darby Nelson is optimistic about the upcoming matchup and how the team can learn from its mistakes in the last two meets.

“Building off with what we started, we had a few mistakes, and last weekend we fixed a few of those things and had a consistent meet," she said. "Just focusing on the little details and working towards building our routines and consistency and confidence."

The sport is all about teamwork and cohesion, so the Quakers are looking to focus on pulling a strong performance together from all four events against the Scarlet Knights. 

“We’ve had a really strong energy as a team so far this year, which is a really exciting thing for us and something we can just keep working to build off," senior Kellie Flavin said. "We’re excited about how things started off and looking to keep growing from here."

In terms of expectations for the season, each gymnast on the roster is a playmaker, no matter how many events they compete in.

“Every event has areas we want to focus on. We set goals after each meet of what we want to work on in the gym going forward to the next meet," Nelson said. "For every event, we want to work on confidence. When we’re going up, trusting that you’re going to make your routine and have trust in each of our teammates."

“What we’re trying to embrace this year is finding your role, and giving everything you have in that role. Everyone has something that we’re trying to take care of and it’s all working towards the same goal of having a good year.” Nelson agreed.

Going up against a strong team like Rutgers is expected to be a challenge. In the Scarlet Knights' two meets so far this season, they have averaged a team score of 194.400. However, the Red and Blue can only control how well they perform and are motivated to improve.

“Rutgers is obviously a good school, but we’re more focused on what we can do as a team to keep growing in the next few weeks,” Flavin said.

The team has high hopes for their meet at Rutgers. Win or lose, the team’s deep trust and tenacity has kept their morale strong and is a strong sign of things to come this season.