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Injuries change Knights’ demeanor for DC meet

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Uncertainty surrounds the Rutgers gymnastics team as Sunday in Washington, D.C., it attempts to bounce back from its first loss of the season.

Junior Luisa Leal landed on her back coming off the uneven bars last Saturday at Texas Woman’s, keeping her out for the team’s remaining three events.

Junior Emma Hoffman was also injured, taking Leal’s place on floor exercise.

“Hopefully, we can get a little healthier than we are at the moment. We have the depth and we’ll put people up there,” said head coach Louis Levine. “It doesn’t matter who’s competing, you have to hit your routines. If you hit your routines, it doesn’t matter if it’s your top-eight kids or your bottom-eight kids.”

Leal has not been healthy for a complete season since her freshman year when she earned EAGL Rookie of the Year.

The Cali, Columbia native broke her foot and sprained her neck last year, missing the first two meets of the season. She also missed all but two meets in 2012 with a heart condition.

Hoffman’s injury comes after being named EAGL Specialist of the Week for her performance on the bars Jan. 24 against Brown. She was injured performing outside of the uneven bars for the first time in her collegiate career.

The Scarlet Knights fell out of the top 25 for the first time this season following their loss against Texas Woman’s. They also fell from the top spot in the EAGL. NC State took the lead with an average score of 194.640 to Rutgers’ 194.410.

Senior co-captain Jenna Zito, who is familiar with injuries, commented on the recent adversity.

“We definitely have had two of our off-meets in the past two weeks, so we want to focus on coming together as a team more,” Zito said. “I think we had really great energy coming off the meets in Ohio [the weekend of January 17], so I’d like to get back to that. We’re really going to focus on coming together and really doing it for each other.”

Sophomore Jenna Williams praised the team for finishing the meet but noted the team’s demeanor in practice has changed.

“We’re just coming into the gym and concentrating every practice like it’s a meet, so every routine that we do in practice has to be like we’re competing, and we have to do every single skill and every routine like it will be our last routine,” Williams said.

She believes the team needs to make a change in order to reach their tournament goals.

“If we want to make regionals and continue to build up higher in the rankings, we have to come to practice with the mindset that we’re going to win,” Williams said.

The Knights saw George Washington first-hand Jan. 17 in a quad-meet at Kent State. Rutgers came out on top with a score of 195.25, while the Colonials season-high score of 193.4 put them in third place.

It was the first time since 1978 and only the second time in program history that Rutgers topped George Washington. The Colonials have dominated the Knights with an 18-2 record between the programs.

George Washington currently sits in seventh out of eight teams in the EAGL with a 193.4 score average.

For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Justin Lesko on Twitter @JLeskoRU. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

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