Feb. 23, 2006
New Haven, CT - The Yale gymnastics team will travel to Providence, R.I. this Sunday to defend their Ivy Classic Title. Yale has won four of the last six Ivy Classics and 14 in the event's 30-year history. Last year, the Bulldogs posted the top score in every event except the vault, and captain Anne McPherson '06 captured the all-around title.
Stiff competition has spurred the Bulldogs to set high standards and continually refine their technique. The Elis have performed extremely well against several nationally ranked teams this year, in addition to defeating Ancient Eight rival U Penn, 187.675 to 187.075. The Bulldogs will face U Penn again during the Ivy Classic. Head Coach Barbara Tonry applauded the team for their outstanding performance and stressed the high level of competition at which the Elis have excelled. McPherson echoed Tonry's positive sentiment.
"The team has steadily been improving. Each week we have less and less falls and that has built our confidence. Everyone is more comfortable with their routines, and thus improving their scores. We have done an amazing job this year with people stepping in when some team members were injured and really helping out when needed," McPherson said.
Although McPherson will not defend her all-around title due to injury, she will compete on bars and will try to compete on beam. McPherson dominated the beam and floor exercise at the last Ivy Championship.
The Elis boast a strong team of seasoned veterans, such as McPherson, Cynthia Leung '06, Suchitra Paul '07, and a freshman class that has quickly proven their immense talent and become a vital asset to the Bulldogs. Alina Liao '09 was honored with her second ECAC Rookie of the Week distinction last weekend for her contribution to the Bulldog victory over Rhode Island. Liao and Kimberley So '09, who was also previously honored as the ECAC Rookie of the Week for her performance at the New England Invitational, have consistently posted some of the Eli's top scores and look to place in the all-around competition.
"The freshmen are amazing. It is difficult to compete all around every week as an experienced upperclassman, but Alina and Kim have done it every week without complaints. All three [freshmen] who have competed this year have gone out there with confidence and been some of our most consistently high scorers. I am extremely impressed with them and proud of them," McPherson said.
Both Tonry and McPherson agreed that floor is the Eli's strongest event. At last year's Ivys, McPherson, Katherine Fong '05, former captain Christine Lacy '05, Leung, and Miki Seltzer '07 captured the top fives places on floor. This year, the Elis have continued their dominance on floor and on beam.
"Floor has always been our biggest strength and continues to be. Our beam is also great but it is very difficult to predict. When we do hit beam, we score really high but it is one of the more difficult events to predict," McPherson said.
The Bulldogs also look to Laura Lombardi '08 to excel on beam. Lombardi was awarded the ECAC Coaches Award following her performance at the Fox Run Invitational. Lombardi had been sidelined during the 2004-05 campaign due to injury, but came back strong at the Fox Run Invitational with a new dismount that helped her secure a strong 9.575 on the beam.
Although there have been many standouts this year, the Bulldogs are headed into the Ivy Classic with a positive, team-focused mentality. Tonry stressed that the team must strive to "concentrate, not on past performances, but only focus on routines on the day of the championship."
Besides defending the championship, this Ivy Classic is a particularly important event for the seniors. Another Ivy win would give the seniors the outstanding distinction of three Ivy titles in four years.
"Having 3 titles would be amazing! We have the talent the really dominate this meet so we just need to stay focused. I have complete faith in my team and know that if we hit, the title could be ours again," McPherson said.
The Ivy Classic begins at 1 p.m., this Sunday, Feb. 26, in Providence, R.I.