Matt Gad – Sports Writer
Moore Field House hosted this year’s Division II ECAC Women’s
Gymnastics Championship between the Owls, West Chester and the University of Bridgeport.
Jerry Nelson’s squad finished third in a meet they haven’t won since 2008.
“We were expected to be right about where we were but we were hoping for a better score,”
Nelson said. “We had a couple misses on bars so that set us back but we were ranked third out of
these teams coming in. I’m very happy with floor, vaulting, even beam.”
The Owls managed just 191.9 points, trailing West Chester at 192.625 and the champion
Bridgeport Purple Knights at 195.1. Alexandra Lesperance was first in vault for the Owls, with
Alexandra Avendano finishing fourth. Kathleen Aberger finished first in bars and Keara
Loughlin, a freshman, was fifth for the Owls on beam.
“The first time we hosted was my freshman year so it’s kind of cool my senior year to do it
again,” Avendano said. “This is the best season we’ve had in a lot of years and the best I’ve had
in my four years here. It was good to end with a good team score and if you’ve been doing well
you can kind of tell about making nationals or not.”
In addition to the team’s performance, Nelson came away with ECAC Coach of the Year. He has
made many contributions to the Owls, both as a head coach and also back in 1973 with the men’s
championship team. 2018 is his 14th year at the helm.
“I appreciate it. I do this a lot and I put everything I have into it. I absolutely love my job so it
felt good,” Nelson said.
Back in 2007 he took home a national Coach of the Year award, in what was his third year as the
Owls’ head women’s gymnastics coach.
“We did start off a little rough on bars but we came back with three of the best rotations we’ve
had this entire year. We broke the floor record with the first 49 mark in Southern’s history so that
was a really good feeling. We came back strong which is what this team has been doing all
year,” Aberger said.
Along with Avendano, freshmen Emily Balasco and Morgan Gatewood, junior Kylyn Dawkins
and sophomore Alexandra Lesperance qualified for nationals, which will take place April 12th
through the 15th in Denton, Tex.
“The teamwork supersedes the talent on this team because it’s the depth of our events and our
student-athletes that allow us to do so well,” Nelson said. “We broke a school record today and
we had great momentum after that.”
Last season the program brought 11 to nationals, compared to this year’s five who were selected.
Nelson said a new team joined their division this year so the amount of available spots for
nationals is a bit less but he expected a half dozen to qualify.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Nelson said. “This is the only team, since I’ve been here, that’s
broken the scoring record twice in one year.”
Photo Credit: Palmer Piana