DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire gymnastics team, under the guidance of 34th-year head coach Gail Goodspeed, opens its 2013 season against East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) rival Rutgers on Sunday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium.
The Wildcats, who registered a 14-10 record and a No. 31 national ranking last season, competed in the 2012 NCAA Regional Championships at the University of Arkansas to mark their 32nd postseason appearance in Goodspeed's 33 years at UNH. Associate head coach Ed Datti, now in his 32nd season, and second-year assistant coach Jess Kelley return to the coaching staff after winning the EAGL Assistant Coach of the Year and NCAA Regional Assistant Coach of the Year awards in '12.
Senior Courtney Connors (Buffalo, N.Y.) was elected as a team co-captain for the second straight year. Connors was honored with the team's Most Inspirational Award last season after rallying back from a mid-season injury that sidelined her for three meets to serve as an integral vault competitor over the final eight competitions and 10 of 13 overall. She closed out her season in fine form by sticking her landing for a season-high-matching 9.800 at the Fayetteville Regional. Connors showed great consistency last year and will once again be counted on for her Yurchenko full. Senior Jen Aucoin (Mullica Hill, N.J.) will serve as the Wildcats' other co-captain following a year that saw her claim a place on the EAGL All-Tournament Second Team for her work on uneven bars. Aucoin swings a dynamic, clean routine that the judges love, and she should be a solid competitor again this year. She does a unique free hip circle hop hand change to an immediate straddle back handstand, which is loaded with judging bonus points.
Austyn Fobes (Howell, N.J.) was tabbed to the All-EAGL First Team on bars one year after earning Second-Team honors in that event. The senior was EAGL's fourth-ranked bar performer with a season-high 9.925, which she scored in an upset win over No. 23 West Virginia. After missing the first two meets of the season with a wrist injury, Fobes rebounded to gain at least a share of UNH's top bar score in seven of the last 10 meets, including four first-place performances. The Howell, N.J., native registered a personal-best 9.900 on floor exercise at the EAGLs to lead the team to a season-high 49.175 floor score and a berth on the All-Tournament First Team. Fobes also tallied a place on the All-Tournament Second Team in all-around in her first AA performance of the season. Becca Marrama (Lynnfield, Mass.) will seek to join the lineup on floor exercise for her senior season.
Leading the junior class is Jillian Hudson (Sparkill, N.Y.), an All-EAGL Second-Team performer on vault last season. Hudson, who is working to stick her Yurchenko full, should once again be a solid contributor after scoring a personal-best 9.850 against Arizona last season. Hannah Barile (Sinking Spring, Pa.) received the team's Most Improved Award on the heels of a consistent sophomore season, in particular on floor exercise, where she thrice hit for a career-high 9.850 and established the team-high floor score four times, including two first-place results. Barile's unique piked Quervo vault makes her one of the most consistent performers in that event heading into the new season. Jannelle Minichiello (Orlando, Fla.), who has been first up on balance beam the past two seasons, has proved she can handle the pressure and bring a solid performance in that event. She has a personal-best 9.775 and can improve if she can add her triple flight of back handspring-layout-layout. Minichiello has been training on the other three events in the hope of becoming an all-around competitor. Erin Machado (Swansea, Mass.) has shown that she can contribute big numbers on floor. She has worked hard to perfect all of her skills and can consistently land her tumbling passes without deduction. Machado, who owns a personal best of 9.850, competes a double pike, a front full-front layout and finishes with a Rudi.
Kayla Gray (Buffalo, N.Y.) burst upon the scene as a freshman in '12 by notching a spot on the All-EAGL First Team on beam followed by a second-place finish in that event at the EAGLs to land a berth on the All-Tournament First Team; she also notched All-Tournament Second Team on floor. Gray posted EAGL's No. 6 beam ranking during her rookie campaign with a career-high 9.900 during a quad-meet at Pennsylvania to win the EAGL Rookie of the Week award before equaling the mark at the UNH Invitational tri-meet. Gray was the Wildcats' top scorer on beam six times and registered at least a share of first place in four meets. Erika Rudiger (Slidell, La.) competed in three events during her initial collegiate season, establishing a career-best 9.750 on vault, a top mark of 9.850 on bars and a 9.750 on floor. The sophomore has focused on her Yurchenko full vault during the preseason; she has the speed, power and tenacity to be an outstanding bar competitor and her new music and choreography fit her floor routine perfectly. Alie Davis (Houston, Texas) hopes to break into the lineup as a sophomore, and Adrienne Hill (Midlothian, Va.) will be sidelined while recovering from an injury at the season's outset.
Nine freshmen grace the roster: Catarina Broccoli (Mystic, Conn.), Lauren Brodie (Mogadore, Ohio), Elissa Solomon (Ridgefield, Conn.) and Alexa Profit (St. James, N.Y.) will battle for a place on the vault lineup; Rebekah Bubnar (Granville, Ohio), Cassy Izzo (Cranston, R.I.) and Courtney Thompson (Chester, N.H.) all have the potential to see time on bars. Brittany Prestia (Harleysville, Pa.) is a newcomer who could crack the beam lineup, while Kelsey Aucoin (Double Oak, Texas) will be looking to recover from a preseason injury.
The 2013 team is ready to continue the proud tradition of UNH gymnastics and is on track to once again perform as one of the top teams in the Northeast. The top six gymnasts are strong on vault and bars, but more depth is needed on those events. Beam and floor are expected to be the strongest events for the 'Cats.
For more information on UNH gymnastics tickets, call (603) 862-4000 x 5 or visit www.unhwildcats.com.