DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire gymnastics team formally celebrated its East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Championship-winning season and doled out awards during Sunday's annual team banquet in the Squamscott Room of Holloway Commons on the University campus.
Head coach Gail Goodspeed guided the Wildcats to the NCAA Regional Championships for the 31st time in the last 33 years, and the program reached the postseason for the 33rd time in Goodspeed's 35 years at the helm. UNH's No. 25 year-end ranking represented the top program finish since its best-ever No. 12 ranking in 1994, the lone season the 'Cats reached the NCAA Championships.
Freshman Meghan Pflieger (Barneveld, N.Y.) was crowned the team MVP after a rookie campaign in which she earned All-EAGL First Team in all-around and Second Team on vault. Pflieger registered seven first-place results and collected at least a share of New Hampshire's top event score 19 times. She earned EAGL All-Tournament First Team on balance beam, floor exercise and all-around while notching Second Team on vault. Pflieger tallied a personal-best 9.875 on vault and tied for ninth place in AA (39.050) at the NCAA Regional Championships on April 5 at Penn State University.
The Most Improved award was bestowed upon freshman Jen King (Freehold, N.J.), who specialized on vault and uneven bars in her inaugural college season. King scored a career-high 9.825 on vault at Yale (Feb. 8) and hit for a personal-best 9.750 on bars at Towson (Feb. 22) in a tri-meet that also featured William & Mary.
Senior Erin Machado (Swansea, Mass.) received the Most Inspirational award for the second year in a row; Machado, a member of the All-EAGL First Team on floor, claimed a share of the EAGL individual floor championship by virtue of her personal-best 9.900 at the Whittemore Center on March 22. The co-captain was recognized for her spirited contributions both on and off the floor.
The Katie Baldwin Academic Excellence Award went to junior Kayla Gray (Buffalo, N.Y.) for the second straight season. Gray, a kinesiology: exercise science major, has compiled a team-leading 3.92 grade point average en route to her third consecutive berth on the EAGL All-Academic Team. The All-EAGL First Team beam performer was inducted April 21 into the National Honor Society, Chi Alpha Sigma, and she will be feted as a member of the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC/W) Scholastic All-America for the third straight year.
Erika Rudiger (Slidell, La.) garnered the inaugural Solid as a Rock award for her remarkable consistency. The junior, who competed three events (vault, bars, floor) in every meet, did not count a single fall all season. The All-EAGL First Team and All-Tournament Second Team uneven bar competitor paced UNH's bar lineup a team-leading eight times, including three first-place marks, and she matched a career high with a 9.875 in a win over Air Force (March 14) at Lundholm Gym.
Senior Jannelle Minichiello (Tewksbury, Mass.) was the recipient of the Coaches Award for stepping it up and assuring the team reached its full potential. Minichiello competed on bars, beam and floor in every meet; she set a career high on vault (9.850) against Air Force, and she made the All-Tournament First Team on floor by equaling a personal-best 9.875 at the EAGL Championship.
Members of the 9.5 Club, in memory of the Wildcats' No. 1 fan Robert Houston, Sr., were honored for achieving a 9.500 or higher in at least one event this season. First-time members included Kelsey Aucoin (Double Oak, Texas), Lauren Brodie (Mogadore, Ohio), Jess Gracia (Bahama, N.C.), King and Pflieger. Adrienne Hill (Midlothian, Va.) was recognized as a two-time member, while Gray and Rudiger made it three straight years in the club. Co-captain Hannah Barile (Sinking Spring, Pa.), Jillian Hudson (Sparkill, N.Y.), Machado and Minichiello earned the distinction for the fourth straight year.
Barile and Machado were thanked for their service as co-captains, and Goodspeed introduced Gray and Rudiger as 2014-15 co-captains.
The Wildcats posted a record of 21-4, including 13-2 in EAGL, with a season-high score of 196.675 (March 8 vs. Penn State, George Washington, Bridgeport) that tied the second-highest score in school history. For more information on the UNH gymnastics program, visit www.unhwildcats.com.