For the North Carolina gymnastics team, high-pressure situations aren’t just reserved for meets.
When the team takes on Rutgers, Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday, it will be just like another practice for the team.
To prepare for the first two meets of the season, the team has treated practice more like competition, even performing routines for a nationally certified judge — assistant coach Penny Jernigan.
“They’ve been competing beam routines on a weekly basis for coach Jernigan, and that’s been really valuable to the team,” head coach Derek Galvin said.
Pressure sets, full routines that mimic a competition setting, have helped the Tar Heels gain composure on the balance beam early in the season. At the start of last season, the event proved challenging for the team.
Performances like sophomore Maura Masatsugu’s at last week’s meet at George Washington showed promise for the team that graduated three gymnasts from its 2010 EAGL Championship lineup. Masatsugu placed first in the last meet with a score of 9.850.
Redshirt senior Teri Diamond hopes to make it back into the uneven bars lineup this weekend after returning from an ankle injury that kept her from competing last season. Diamond said one of the main strengths of the team is its chemistry, and she’s excited about continuing in her role as a leader.
“This year the team is just so unified,” Diamond said. “I feel privileged to be able to lead this team because it’s such a great group of girls.”
Galvin said the team has been focusing on a different event every day this week, starting with conditioning on Monday and training on vault and floor exercise later in the week.
He admits that the floor and vault lineups haven’t been progressing as quickly due to injuries on the team. Last week, sophomore Michelle Ikoma tore her Achilles’ tendon in practice and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Junior Taylor Brown was out for a couple of weeks with a knee injury but is hoping to be a part of the vault lineup at Rutgers.
Brown posted three personal records last season, including a 9.650 on the bars at Florida.
The Tar Heels’ execution and form will serve as an advantage against their opponents this weekend, Galvin said. The team already defeated Penn by more than four points at the George Washington Invitational.
The Brown Bears came in third place in their first meet, but sophomore Emily Lutfey could prove to be tough competition on the uneven bars. Lutfey scored a 9.800 in the Bears’ season opener.
Brown said she hopes the meet will give the Tar Heels more confidence going into the home season in Carmichael Arena next month.
“Just get all your kinks out, whatever you have a little fear about now,” she said. “We can get that out of the way and be prepared for our big meets, our home meets.”
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