NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale Gymnastics team is looking to improve upon a fourth-place finish at last year's Ivy League Classic as they prepare for the 2010 season. Despite losing three-time Ivy and defending ECAC all-around champion Alina Liao ‘08, the team enters the season with a much deeper squad than they had one year ago. With five incoming freshman and multiple gymnasts returning from injuries, the improved Bulldogs have set their sights on a 15th Ivy title.
This year's edition of the Yale Gymnastics team will be something of a youth movement, as the team features only two seniors, Allison Mak and team captain Brigitte Kivisto, and one junior, Sherry Yang. Head coach Barbara Tonry, though, expects these three gymnasts to have a huge impact on the team's success. She calls the leadership of Kivisto "infectious," saying of the captain, "She really leads by example. She's terrific as far as her work ethic." Kivisto qualified individually for the USA Intercollegiate Championships last season on the balance beam, but, according to Tonry, she has set her sights this year on success in the all-around.
"She's already starting out some really outstanding routines in every event," says Tonry.
Like Kivisto, Mak will also compete in the all-around for the Bulldogs.
"She's one of our more outstanding balance beam workers that we've had in years," says Tonry. "This year, there will big expectations of her in every event."
Yang, the final upperclassman and sole junior on the team, will definitely compete on the floor and the balance beam, but injuries will keep her off of the uneven bars and therefore out of the all-around competition.
Like Yang, the majority of the sophomore class was plagued by injuries last year, but their return should provide a boost for the Bulldogs. Tonry is unsure of which events the four sophomores (Margaret Greenburg, Monica Shoji, Talis Trevino and Mia Yabut) will compete in, but she expects all to contribute in one or more events for the Bulldogs.
By far the deepest class on the team, though, is the freshmen. Tonry expects the five freshmen (Lindsay Andsager, Tara Feld, Stephanie Goldstein, Megan Harada and Chelsea Savit) to make an immediate impact in competition, much as they have in practice.
"I'm extremely proud of this freshman class," says Tonry, "because they're not only hard-working but they're enthusiastic and just a joy to have in the gym."
Three of the newcomers -- Feld, Goldstein and Savit -- are training for the all-around, while Tonry calls Andsager a "top bar worker" who could compete in any event.
Overall, says Tonry, the 2010 Bulldogs offer an effective mix of "upperclassman experience and youthful exuberance," and they are poised to regain their traditional status as one of the Ivy League's top teams.
"It all melds together," says Tonry. "This is definitely a team that really wants to be competitive and successful."
Tonry, who is entering her 36th year at Yale, has prepared one of the most difficult schedules that the Bulldogs have faced in years. It features meets with multiple scholarship schools from the traditional power conferences, including Auburn and Penn State, two teams that enter the season with spots in the national rankings. According to Tonry, though, the schedule's extremely high degree of difficulty is part of a much larger plan for the team. Although competing with nationally renowned programs may not be the easiest way to compile an impressive win-loss record, the Bulldogs are, says Tonry, "using our schedule to lead us up to the Ivy Classic and the ECACs."
The team will begin its pursuit of Ivy Classic and ECAC Championship victories with a trip to New Hampshire on Jan. 17 for their first of 11 consecutive weekends of competition. In addition to the Wildcats, a regular qualifier to the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship that is currently receiving top 25 votes, the Bulldogs will face unfamiliar foes Ball State and Utah State.
One week later, the Bulldogs will participate in a four-way meet with Penn State, Iowa and Cornell, the defending Ivy Classic champion. Penn State enters the season ranked 11th in the nation, while Iowa also received votes in the preseason top 25 poll.
After returning from Penn State, the Bulldogs will receive a visit from conference rival Penn in what will be their first of three home meets of the season. It is also the last time Yale will face an Ivy League opponent before the Ivy Classic on Feb. 28.
On Feb. 6, Yale travels across New Haven for a matchup with SCSU and Ithaca College. The Elm City rivalry has been intense in recent years, with the Bulldogs and the Owls splitting their four meetings over the past two years. Yale has not faced Ithaca since 2008, when the Bulldogs defeated the Bombers by 6.5 points.
Following the short trip to SCSU, Yale has a two weekend home stand, with a match against Springfield College followed by a rematch with SCSU that will also feature Bridgeport. The Bulldogs will then head to Brown for the Ivy Classic on Feb. 28, where Yale will look to knock off defending champion Cornell.
The month of March features three regular-season road meets for the Bulldogs before the ECAC Championships at Temple on Mar. 27. They begin the month with a second meet against Springfield College, where they will be joined by Rhode Island College. On Mar. 13, Yale will travel to Rutgers where the upperclassmen will attempt to avenge a heartbreaking 0.05 point loss to the Scarlet Knights in 2008. There, Rutgers and Yale will be joined by Towson, the five-time defending ECAC champion.
Yale's final tune-up for the ECAC Championship will come on Mar. 20 against Maryland, Auburn, and George Washington at Maryland's campus. Yale has not competed against Auburn, ranked 14th nationally, and George Washington in recent years, but this will mark the second consecutive year that Yale visits the Terrapins. Last year, the Bulldogs finished fourth at a meet in College Park.
The season concludes with the ECAC Championship on Mar. 27 at Temple. NCAA Regionals are on Apr. 10 for any Bulldogs that qualify.
Report filed by Trey Chandler '11, Yale Sports Publicity