Largest roster grabs first win of season for gymnastics

Matt GadSports Writer

Southern Women’s Gymnastics, which defeated Brockport and Rhode Island College last Sunday for their first win of the season, boasts the largest team in program history this year.

“In 16 years I’ve been here it’s never been 21 kids,” coach Jerry Nelson said. “That’s how many we’re carrying right now. We’ve been trying to increase our enrollments so we can increase our base of competitve athletes but we’re limited because of our double facilities and how small our facility is in Pelz but it has been a project of ours for the last four years to get a little more people on the team.”

13 of the team’s expanded 21-athlete roster is underclassmen, with six new freshmen coming in after last year’s recruiting class gave the team seven new student-athletes.

“We opened up with our season’s highest score in program history so that was definitely a good thing for us because we have a young team,” senior co-captain Kylyn Dawkins said. “We were all happy about it.”

The team lost four seniors last year due to graduation after finishing in third place of the ECAC Championship, which was held last year at Moore Field House, and sending six student-athletes to nationals.

This year’s ECAC Championship, which is held on a hosting rotation between the Owls, Bridgeport and West Chester, will be held in Bridgeport, which will also be the host site for April’s national meet.

While the program has consistently sent several members each year to that meet, they have been unable to qualify for it as a full team since 2007.

“I hosted here in 2007,” Nelson said. “We qualified as a team my first year when I was an assistant and then we made it in 2007 but since then we’ve had a couple more teams come into the league and it’s hard competing against Division I.”

The Owls play a balanced schedule across all the NCAA divisions. This year in terms of Division I opponents they will play eight, including some teams, like Yale, on multiple occasions. They also face off frequently against Division III powerhouse Springfield College, as well as their ECAC rivals in Bridgeport and West Chester.

“We have the strongest team in our history, probably, and every day we’re working hard. I think this team is going to succeed and we can break every record that we have,” Nelson said. “We’re gonna build and we have a good chance this year at ECACs. It should be a great season.”

Sunday they will face off against Yale, Bridgeport and Springfield in a meet at the Payne Whitney Gym in New Haven at 1 p.m, which will be live on the new streaming service, ESPN+, then the following Sunday, Feb. 10, they will travel to Providence, R.I. to take on Brown, Springfield and Rhode Island College.

“You can’t really tell who’s in which division sometimes becuase there’s so much energy,” senior co-captain Tiffany Coleman said. “We’ve brought in a large number and it’s been beneficial to us.”

Coleman said the team’s size this year helps out at meets in case someone gets injured or can’t compete.

“It definitely helps with more people,” Coleman said. “When someone is down we try to cover it up like a bandaid and get it to work.”

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