Even though 2020 has been a rough year for NCAA gymnastics with several programs being discontinued, a bright spot has been the addition of a brand new team—the first since 2013. Despite such a quick turnaround from when the team was announced, as well as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, head coach Randy Lane was able to recruit an impressive roster of 20, including four transfers. These gymnasts hail from all eight USAG regions and six different countries.
While there’s still so much uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season, it’s business as usual until we hear otherwise. That means it’s time for our annual potential lineups analysis! With preseason training in full swing for most teams, we’re breaking it all down and taking a look at every squad’s prospects for 2021—from who’s expected to contribute, holes that need to be filled and exciting upgrades fans should look out for.
|Gains (Freshmen):||Ella Barrington, Jah’liyah Bedminster, Cael Bixler, Ella Castellanos, Charli Cohen, Taylor Doten, Talia Folino, Riley Goldberg, Izzy Hilliard, Reagan Jones, Alisson Lapp, Lauren Miller, Alana Ricketts, Alex Skocic, Mara Titarsolej, Alyssa Van Allen|
|Gains (Transfers):||Emma Brown (from Denver), Katy Koopman (from Bridgeport), Amanda Loo (from Bridgeport), Nika Takagi (from Bridgeport)|
|Returning from Injury:||Nika Takagi (unknown), Katy Koopman (toe)|
Potential Contributors: Katy Koopman (9.700 high at Bridgeport), Emma Brown, Nika Takagi, Jah’Liyah Bedminster, Cael Bixler, Talia Folino, Izzy Hilliard, Alisson Lapp, Alana Ricketts, Alyssa Van Allen, Riley Goldberg
How It Looks: Nika Takagi will be the headliner on this event if healthy. She competes a handspring front pike half—a 10.0 start. Emma Brown did not compete vault at Denver, but she performed a solid Yurchenko full in level 10. As for the freshmen, Jah’Liyah Bedminster, Cael Bixler, Talia Folino, Izzy Hilliard, Alisson Lapp, Alana Ricketts and Alyssa Van Allen are all capable of Yurchenko fulls, with Bedminster, Folino, Ricketts and Van Allen being the best of the bunch. Katy Koopman competed a tucked Yurchenko full at Bridgeport, which went as high as 9.700 in 2020, and Riley Goldberg competes a tucked Tsuk full. Both of these vaults only start from a 9.900 but will be useful backup options.
Overall Event Outlook: With a potential 10.0 start and a plethora of options with a 9.9-plus start value, vault should be a strong event for the Sharks.
Potential Contributors: Nika Takagi, Emma Brown, Mara Titarsolej, Jah’Liyah Bedminster, Cael Bixler, Talia Folino, Alisson Lapp, Ella Castellanos, Izzy Hilliard, Alana Ricketts
How It Looks: Bars is not the best event for most of the gymnasts, but there are several strong routines in the mix. Although she hasn’t competed much in recent years, Mara Titarsolej has a beautiful routine that could potentially be the anchor as long as she is healthy. Lapp is also a good bar worker and has plenty of well-executed skills to choose from. Takagi has a strong routine, and while Brown did not compete bars at Denver, she was a solid bar worker in level 10. Bedminster, Folino and Bixler are all capable of clean and up-to-the-level routines that should help round out the lineup. Hilliard, Ricketts and Ella Castellanos all have potential on the event but will each need to add another major release to have a UTL routine. Head coach Randy Lane mentioned Castellanos in particular as a potential lead off.
Overall Event Outlook: If there’s one event that could be a weakness for LIU, it’s bars. There are several standout routines, but it lacks the depth of the other events.
Potential Contributors: Emma Brown (9.830 NQS at Denver), Katy Koopman (9.775 high at Bridgeport), Amanda Loo (9.625 high at Bridgeport), Nika Takagi, Alisson Lapp, Alana Ricketts, Mara Titarsolej, Ella Barrington, Cael Bixler, Alex Skocic, Talia Folino, Ella Castellanos, Alyssa Van Allen
How It Looks: Brown competed this event weekly at Denver, and with her experience and a high score of 9.850, she’s a likely candidate for the anchor spot. Both Koopman and Amanda Loo competed beam a few times at Bridgeport and will be solid options for the lineup. Takagi is a beautiful beam worker, and should definitely contend for the top six if healthy. Beam is probably the strongest event for Lapp, so expect to see her in the lineup as well. Titarsolej competes a somewhat uncommon side aerial to back handspring series on beam and should be another solid option. Folino’s elite routine was also difficult and well executed, and could translate into a strong collegiate set with a wow factor. Other potential contributors on this event include Ricketts, Bixler, Castellanos, Van Allen, Ella Barrington and Alex Skocic.
Overall Event Outlook: There’s a ton of depth on this event. As with every beam lineup, LIU’s success will come down to its consistency.
Potential Contributors: Emma Brown (9.850 high at Denver), Amanda Loo (9.825 high at Bridgeport), Katy Koopman (9.650 high at Bridgeport), Nika Takagi, Talia Folino, Izzy Hilliard, Alisson Lapp, Mara Titarsolej, Alyssa Van Allen, Lauren Miller, Alana Ricketts, Jah’Liyah Bedminster, Alex Skocic, Ella Barrington, Reagan Jones, Taylor Doten
How It Looks: Brown and Loo have both scored better than 9.800 on floor, and with their experience should be in this lineup. Koopman has an E pass on the event—a triple full—and while it can be a bit out of control, the potential is there. Floor is probably the strongest event for Folino: She has the potential to compete a double layout as well as a full-in and will be in contention for the anchor spot. Takagi’s tumbling is huge, so expect her to be a standout here. Other potential contributors include Hilliard, Lapp, Titarsolej, Van Allen, Ricketts, Bedminster, Skocic, Barrington, Lauren Miller, Reagan Jones and Taylor Doten.
Overall Event Outlook: As with beam, there is a lot of depth on floor. This has the potential to be a strong event for the Sharks.
This team has a lot of potential. It wouldn’t be surprising to see it on the regionals bubble in its very first season. However, there are still a lot of unknowns. Only three team members have collegiate competition experience, and it can take a while for freshmen to adjust to competing in college. Still, this season should be one to watch.
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Article by Mary Emma Burton and Talitha Ilacqua
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