This is perhaps NCAA gymnastics’ least competitive division. Perennial powerhouse Bridgeport enters the 2020 season as an 11-time defending champion, and it’s likely that the streak will continue for at least a few more years. That said, this group includes half the country’s Division II women’s teams, and they’re all fascinating in their own way.
The 2020 season will be here before we know it! And with preseason training in full swing, it’s time to start looking at the teams and how they might fare when the action kicks off in January—from who’s expected to compete, holes coaches need to fill, exciting upgrades you might see and more.
No. 44 Bridgeport
Bridgeport ended the 2019 season on a thrilling note, recording two consecutive season highs at USAG nationals to finish third. It struggled desperately with beam during much of the season, at one point counting falls for six consecutive meets, but ultimately came out on top. This is a team that’s capable of scoring 196.000-plus and contending for the USAG national title in 2020. It adds an exciting freshman class featuring two talented Canadians who both have star potential.
|Losses:||Kelly Aycock (UB, FX), Delaney Cahill (BB), Maritza Futch (VT, UB, BB), Thomara Powell-Brown (UB), Kelli Tereshko (UB, FX), Brieanna Zine (VT)|
|Gains:||Hannah Barry, Ava Boyd, Cassidy Dillon, Allie Grindle, Grace Hunter, Kiana Knox, Katy Koopman, Amanda Loo, Charlie Lister, Nika Takagi|
Potential Contributors: Julianna Roland (9.865 NQS), Crystal Gwinn (9.805), Gabrielle Kistner (9.800), Varvara Diakakis (9.725), Maya Reimers (9.625), Jordan Streete, Sarah Proulx
How It Looked Before: Vault was solid and reliable in 2019, held down by a trio of freshmen who vaulted weekly. Roland in particular was incredibly valuable all year and finished fourth at USAG nationals event finals. That said, all five returning vaulters with an NQS are great prospects to return. Rising junior Kistner is capable of sticking her Yurchenko Arabian spectacularly, and she has serious star power on this event if she can do so a little more often.
How It Looks Now: Two newcomers stand out as prospects in this lineup. Katy Koopman has competed a solid Yurchenko full in the past, and Canadian Nika Takagi is a sure bet with a 10.0-start front handspring, front pike half vault. Amanda Loo and Charlie Lister have great Yurchenko layouts, and both have some upgrade potential.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? With more routines gained than lost, vault should be able to improve.
Potential Contributors: Kathryn Doran (9.855 NQS), Julianna Roland (9.730), Regan Dillon, Hayley Bangart, Varvara Diakakis, Nika Takagi, Amanda Loo, Allie Grindle, Charlie Lister, Maya Reimers
How It Looked Before: Bars was Bridgeport’s strongest event in 2019, shining with the help of several senior specialists including fifth-year Kelli Tereshko. Then-sophomore Kathryn Doran led the Purple Knights all year with her beautiful set, finishing fifth at nationals. She’ll be the core of the lineup more than ever next year, with so many of her colleagues graduating.
How It Looks Now: The bars lineup loses a lot of routines this year, and it’s not a strength for Bridgeport’s freshmen either. Sophomores Bangart and Diakakis had potential here in level 10 but didn’t compete last year. Of the newcomers, Takagi is once again the most obvious pick. She competes a gorgeous and difficult set with a transition flight combination and a toe on, front tuck half-out dismount. She should join Doran at the end of the lineup. Of the rest, Loo and Grindle bring the highest scores while Lister shows potential on video. Reimers has competed bars in the past but has not shown her set for two seasons now.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Expect the Purple Knights to be scrambling for routines in 2019. However, last year bars was identified as a weak spot during preseason, but Tereshko’s return helped the lineup excel. This year, it’s unlikely there will be another late surprise.
Potential Contributors: Maya Reimers (9.835 NQS), Julianna Roland (9.760), Kathryn Doran (9.710), Nicole Javinett (9.615), Gabrielle Kistner (9.580), Jordan Streete, Nika Takagi, Amanda Loo, Katy Koopman, Charlie Lister
How It Looked Before: The good news for the Purple Knights is that only one of its weekly beamers from 2019 graduated. The bad news is that if it wants to overcome its consistency issues, the change will have to come from the inside out instead of relying on newcomers to replace unreliable routines. The six returning gymnasts produced a total of 19 missed routines last season, and if Bridgeport wants to improve its results in 2020, its strategy begins and ends with simply falling less.
How It Looks Now: Bridgeport has numerous new options to explore in 2020. Once again Takagi excels, with a difficult and stylish set that includes an incredibly unique switch leap + front layout dismount combination. Loo is aggressive and clean on this event, and could contribute one of the best switch halfs in college, as well as the confidence that returning Purple Knights sometimes lacked. Koopman and Lister are options here as well.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Once again 2020 is all about simply not falling, so it’s hard to tell if the consistency has improved until the season begins. But there’s a great deal of potential, and the Purple Knights should be able to experiment with new routines to find something that works.
Potential Contributors: Maya Reimers (9.865 NQS), Crystal Gwinn (9.850), Julianna Roland (9.810), Gabrielle Kistner (9.760), Molly Grau, Alexis Richardson, Nika Takagi, Amanda Loo, Allie Grindle, Charlie Lister
How It Looked Before: Floor was great for the Purple Knights in 2019, with superstar junior Maya Reimers making waves early in the season by briefly attempting a two E pass routine. She lead a talented group of underclassmen who will likely return next year, including powerhouse Crystal “Cookie” Gwinn.
How It Looks Now: Reimers has been a star and fan favorite on floor for her whole career, and now that she’s a senior, expect to see some theatrical and special performances from her. Takagi has huge potential here, boasting a difficult collection of dance skills and clean tumbling. Loo is also talented and polished. It’s a strength for the powerful Grindle, and Lister could excel with the help of an interesting set of dance elements.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Floor doesn’t need to gain very many routines to continue on pace or even grow in 2019. Expect good things from this squad.
Watch closely to see if Bridgeport finds enough bar routines to replace the number of graduated routines from 2019. But even if bars is a bit of a struggle, improvements on the other three events should allow Bridgeport to continue to excel. And, if Takagi can be consistent, she will compete in the all around at some point in 2020. She is an extraordinary recruit for the Purple Knights and for Division II gymnastics, and she could accomplish a great deal in her four years in Connecticut.
No. 61 West Chester
West Chester has been building slowly for the last few seasons, and in 2019 it qualified to USAG nationals as a team for only the second time in program history. The Golden Rams will be facing a fight to get back, but they don’t lose many routines, and their freshman class is a talented group.
|Losses:||Casandra Hageman (BB, FX), Myranda Marshall (UB), Lindsey Mathis (VT, UB, FX), Emily Loughery|
|Gains:||Olivia Barr, Sammie Gill, Kiah Johnson, Samantha Kelly, Tiara DeTommaso, Abbey Whitehead|
|Returning From Injury:||Paige Parsnik (possible)|
Potential Contributors: Jessica Meakim (9.675 NQS), Brashlyn Johnson (9.650), Ashley Duke (9.490), McKenna Kissinger (9.490), Natalie Onderko (9.230), Kelley Lubking (9.180), Annie Bailey, Sara Bell, Tiara DeTommaso, Kiah Johnson, Abbey Whitehead, Olivia Barr
How It Looked Before: Vault was West Chester’s weakest event last year. Sophomore all arounder Jessica Meakim and powerful freshman Brashlyn Johnson led the lineup. Annie Bailey returned to the top six late in 2019 after a presumed injury but scored well, peaking with a 9.575 in the national semifinals.
How It Looks Now: There are many exciting freshman prospects here that could replace some less consistent returners. DeTommaso competes an Ilg—a front handspring onto the board + front handspring + front tuck. She has recently worked on upgrading to the piked version, which starts from a 10.0. While we were unable to track down recent competition video for Kiah Johnson, as of two years ago she competed a Yurchenko full and since then has trained a shockingly good laid-out one and a half. Whitehead and Barr also compete a Yurchenko full.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? The sky’s the limit for this lineup. West Chester could plausibly compete three 10.0 vaults and three other Yurchenko fulls, which would be a massive improvement.
Potential Contributors: Melanie Wojewoda (9.735 NQS), Natalie Onderko (9.610), Jordan Miranda (9.610), Ashley Duke (9.590), Jessica Meakim (9.580), Yoli Nodarse, Isabella D’Orazio, Tiara DeTommaso, Abbey Whitehead, Olivia Barr
How It Looked Before: Bars could be very inconsistent for the Golden Rams in 2019, but when it came together, it was beautiful. Eight different Rams had a season high of 9.700-plus, so there’s lots of potential here.
How It Looks Now: DeTommaso should be an immediate star thanks to her powerful swing and pretty piked Jaeger. Whitehead could also make waves—she has beautiful lines in her difficult, transition-based routine. Barr has potential as well.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? The Rams did not lose very many routines and added two others that will fit with the very best in the lineup. It should be a good year.
Potential Contributors: Yoli Nodarse (9.835 NQS), Sarah Boyd (9.800), Melanie Wojewoda (9.660), Jordan Miranda (9.635), Jessica Meakim (9.250), Rose Fanara, Ashley Duke, Annie Bailey, Tiara DeTommaso, Kiah Johnson, Olivia Barr, Abbey Whitehead
How It Looked Before: Nodarse and Boyd were both superstars on beam in 2019, each tying WCU’s program record score of 9.875. Expect these two to continue leading the lineup in 2020.
How It Looks Now: DeTommaso shone on beam in level 10, and her beautiful form should make her a phenom at West Chester as well. Kiah Johnson’s power makes her perhaps more impressive on beam than any other event, with a routine that boasts a two-foot layout and a double tuck dismount. Barr and Whitehead have good beam sets, though neither works with a great deal of confidence yet.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? This is the event on which the Golden Rams return the least depth, but they have plenty of options and talented freshmen. It’s hard to tell at this point—plus, it’s beam—so you never know.
Potential Contributors: Jessica Meakim (9.835 NQS), Rose Fanara (9.800), Yoli Nodarse (9.745), McKenna Kissinger (9.725), Brashlyn Johnson (9.685), Sarah Boyd (9.650), Jordan Miranda, Paige Parsnik, Tiara DeTommaso, Kiah Johnson, Abbey Whitehead, Olivia Barr
How It Looked Before: Floor was West Chester’s best event by far in 2019, and with its best six routines all returning, it has an amazing foundation for 2019. Meakim tied the program record with a 9.925 in March, but the lineup had tons of talent from top to bottom.
How It Looks Now: DeTommaso has a well-balanced set with reliable landings and lots of style. It wouldn’t be shocking to see her compete in the all around this year. As on her other events, Johnson is astoundingly powerful. She opens her competition routine with a front pike to double tuck and has trained full-ins. Whitehead can also generate a lot of air time and has worked both tucked and piked full-ins of her own. Barr is a great performer. Parsnik was a strong weekly performer here as a freshman but sat out in 2019.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? This lineup could be even more spectacular in 2020 than in 2019.
There’s every reason to expect a record-setting season from the Golden Rams, with so many added routines on top of a history-making team that returns mostly intact. They will likely end up right on the edge of qualifying to USAG nationals again in 2020. This is a team that’s capable of beating some lower-ranked Division I teams and, with a little bit of luck, might be capable of qualifying a specialist to regionals. Keep an eye on the week-to-week statistics because it’s good at being quietly excellent.
No. 65 Southern Connecticut State
Southern Connecticut is an odd case because we don’t currently have a single freshman announced for the Owls, and the team’s media contact did not respond to a request for information about the class of 2023. For now, we’ll summarize where things stood at the end of 2019 and identify gaps that newcomers, if they exist, will need to fill.
It was an exciting season for the Owls, breaking records left and right with the help of superstar freshman all arounder Hannah Stahlbrodt and a few other talented underclassmen. Stahlbrodt currently holds the team records in all around score, as well as all around season average, has tied for the school record on bars and beam, and lead the Owls to program records in the team score, season-opening score and every event but beam.
|Losses:||Tiffany Coleman (VT), Kylyn Dawkins (VT, BB, FX), Michaela Gilbert|
|Returning From Injury:||Emily Balasco (assumed), Jenna Zakala (assumed), Cadi Borsellino (assumed)|
Potential Contributors: Hannah Stahlbrodt (9.675 NQS), Cassidy Girolamo (9.660), Alexandra Lesperance (9.620), Bella Lanata (9.550) Emily Balasco, Jenna Zakala, Cadi Borsellino
How It Looked Before: The Owls broke their vault program record in 2019, but it still has space to grow, especially if it can add some more difficult vaults. This is a lineup that often fields mostly Yurchenko layouts Yurchenko tuck fulls and front handspring front pikes. Stahlbrodt’s Yurchenko layout full was an instant leader.
How It Looks Now: This lineup lost two routines, but if Borsellino can return, it should be in decent shape regardless of what newcomers the Owls have. Borsellino only competed a few times in 2019, ending her season in the first week of February due to a presumed injury.
Potential Contributors: Hannah Stahlbrodt (9.785 NQS), Jacqueline Kutcher (9.575), Noely Macias (9.575), Cassidy Girolamo (9.500), Keylea Brothers (9.480), Isabella Antonangeli (9.285), Cadi Borsellino
How It Looked Before: Bars is a historical weakness for the Owls, but in 2019 they broke their event program record with a rotation that also included two individual program records from Stahlbrodt and Borsellino.
How It Looks Now: This is the only event on which Southern Connecticut lost no routines, so it should be able to build well into 2020.
Potential Contributors: Jordan Peloquin (9.750 NQS), Hannah Stahlbrodt (9.715), Morgan Gatewood (9.665), Keara Loughlin (9.655), Noely Macias (9.450), Cassidy Girolamo (9.185), Bella Lanata
How It Looked Before: In 2019, two Owls tied the program record on beam. Stahlbrodt and Peloquin are extraordinary and can get even better here.
How It Looks Now: Consistency will be key to improving and breaking 2018’s program record, but the Owls have enough routines.
Potential Contributors: Hannah Stahlbrodt (9.820), Jordan Peloquin (9.760), Keylea Brothers (9.700), Bella Lanata (9.655), Cassidy Girolamo (9.650), Emily Balasco, Noely Macias, Cadi Borsellino, Alexandra Lesperance, Cadi Borsellino
How It Looked Before: It’s a familiar refrain at this point—in February 2019, the Owls tied their program record on floor, and the event was by far the strongest for this team. In addition to the great set of weekly returners, keep an eye out for Noely Macias, who competed infrequently last year but is a great performer with huge potential.
How It Looks Now: Since the Owls graduated only one routine in 2019 and return so many options, there’s reason to be optimistic.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the 2020 Owls. New head coach Mary Fredericks hasn’t hired an assistant yet, and we currently have no announced freshmen. That said, the foundation this squad inherits from last year is solid and exciting.
Article by Rebecca Scally
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