DURHAM, N.H. – Coming off a No. 30 national ranking and a second-place finish at the 2011 East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Championship, the University of New Hampshire gymnastics team returns to begin a new season at Rutgers on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 1 p.m.
In 2011 the Wildcats finished with a 17-10 record, registered their top EAGL finish in eight years and earned a berth in the NCAA Regional Championship at the University of Oklahoma, which marked the program's 31st postseason appearance in head coach Gail Goodspeed's 32 years at the helm. Goodspeed, who reached a personal milestone by collecting her 500th career victory during EAGLs on March 19, 2011, is joined by 29th-year associate head coach Ed Datti and first-year assistant coach Jess Kelley.
Senior Ali Carr (Chelmsford, Mass.) and junior Courtney Connors (Buffalo, N.Y.) were elected as team co-captains by their teammates. Carr, who earned 2011 All-EAGL First Team honors on vault and All-EAGL Second Team recognition on bars, has stepped into the leadership role with a smooth transition. The two-time NACGC/W Scholastic All-American is training hard to step into an all-around spot as she seeks to build upon her accolades on vault (personal best-9.85) and uneven bars (PB-9.95) when she competes on balance beam and floor exercise. Carr's 9.95 bar score, accomplished at Brown in 2010, is tied for UNH's all-time record in that event. Senior Danielle Reibold (Horsham, Pa.) is one of the most consistent and dependable performers on bars (PB-9.85) and beam (9.875) and hit every bar set and all but one beam routine in 2011. The three-time NACGC/W Scholastic All-American was named All-EAGL First Team on bars and was tabbed to the EAGL All-Tournament First Team on that apparatus after tying for second place at the EAGL Championship. Senior Tasia Percevecz (Fountain Hills, Ariz.) is training to compete on vault, bars and floor and should make the most impact on floor (PB-9.8), where she is working on finishing with a 2/1 back. Senior Kate McGeever (Saco, Maine) came into her own last season as one of the best in the floor lineup (PB-9.825). Her front tumbling makes her a standout as she opens with a front layout 2/1 full and every pass includes bonus skills.
The junior class has talent on all four events. Connors' strengths are vaulting (PB-9.825), where she has the ability to stick a Yurchenko full, and floor (PB-9.8), where she can be counted on to entertain with excellent tumbling and a great smile. Austyn Fobes (Howell, N.J.) should once again be a top all-around competitor on the heels of a sensational sophomore season that included All-EAGL First Team membership on floor and all-around, Second Team on bars, in addition to EAGL All-Tournament First Team on bars and all-around. Fobes will be slowed at the beginning of the season while recovering from a wrist injury, but look for her to challenge her personal bests on all events: vault (9.85), bars (9.95), beam (9.775), and floor (9.875). She topped the 39-point all-around mark three times in 2011, capped by a career-high 39.1 at 24th-ranked LSU. Jen Aucoin (Mullica Hill, N.J.) anchored the bar team last season, highlighted by a personal-best 9.85 at Arizona and a second-place-tying 9.8 at EAGLs for a spot on the All-Tournament First Team. Aucoin has the ability to compete on beam, floor and vaulting as well. Becca Marrama (Lynnfield, Mass.) has trained extremely hard to have a shot at the floor lineup and should also challenge for a spot on vaulting. Her combination tumbling is ready on floor, and she is working a front-handspring front pike to add depth to the vaulting squad. Unfortunately, Dianna Kurowyckyj (New York, N.Y.) suffered a knee injury at December's "Meet the Team" event and will not see action this season.
The sophomore class knows the expectations and challenges of a Division I program and all are ready to step up to both. Hannah Barile (Sinking Spring, Pa.) competed a great vault (PB-9.775) last season, a piked Quervo (front handspring – 1/2 twist to a piked back flip), and needs to learn to stick this very difficult vault. Her new floor routine is upbeat and fun with some of the highest tumbling difficulty on the team, opening with a full-in. Jannelle Minichiello (Orlando, Fla.) provided a strong first-up last year on beam (PB-9.725) and started the new season with a great floor routine at the "Meet the Team." She opens with a 2/1 Arabian (1/2 turn-double front) and finishes with a 2/1 back tuck. Her smile makes this a fun routine for fans to watch. Expect Minichiello to challenge for a spot in the bar lineup as well. Jillian Hudson (Sparkill, N.Y.) trained hard over the summer to return to form on every event. Vaulting (PB-9.775) is her best event, followed by floor and bars. She performs a great 2/1 pike, finishes with a front Rudi (1 ½ twist) on floor and is very close to competing a Tkachev (reverse hecht) on bars. Erin Machado (Swansea, Mass.) tallied one of the best scores on floor exercise (9.85) when she placed first last season at the home meet against Bridgeport, but she suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear during warm-ups at the next home meet. However, Erin is back training all of her skills, so expect her to again be a mainstay in the floor lineup and challenge on the other events. Carly Stote (Kingston, N.Y.) rounds out the sophomore class and will add depth, particularly on bars and floor.
The freshman class exhibits all aspects of the sport with excellent power, execution and grace. The grace and style of Kayla Gray (Buffalo, N.Y.) is complemented by the power and quickness of Adrienne Hill (Midlothian, Va.). Gray nursed an abdominal strain all fall, but she has recovered to anchor the beam team with one of the best sets in the country. Look for her to move into an all-around spot as the season progresses. Hill has the ability to compete as an all-around with strengths on vault (Yurchenko full) and beam. She is quick and powerful on all four events and should become a solid competitor for this team. Erika Rudiger (Slidell, La.) has impressed the coaching staff with her skill level and work ethic. She is one to watch as her skills are improving every day. Expect to see her in the lineup on vaulting (Yurchenko ½), bars and floor with a chance to make the beam lineup as well. Alie Davis (Houston, Texas) is a three-event threat with bars, beam and floor as her specialties. She has the style, grace and ability to compete on all three. Kelsey Fachini (East Hampton, Conn.) rounds out this class with two events that could be ready for competition: vaulting and bars. She is training a tucked Yurchenko full (9.9 Starting Value) with hopes of escalating to a 10.0 vault in the near future. Her bar routine could entertain with a Geinger and a ½-in ½-out dismount.
The theme of "Practice with Purpose/Compete with Passion" for 2012 puts emphasis on making every practice count and enjoying every competition. The energy and team enthusiasm is key to success for the 2012 UNH Wildcats.
The Wildcats' first home meet of the season is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 15, at 1 p.m. against Penn State at Lundholm Gymnasium. For information on UNH gymnastics season tickets, call (603) 862-4000 x 5 or visit www.unhwildcats.com.