The women’s gymnastics team has had its difficulties in competition this season. But it has also had to handle injuries like a dislocated shoulder, a torn Achilles tendon, and countless sprained ankles and sore backs.
Add inexperience to the mix, and the Owls have had a reasonably rough start to their season.
The Owls, who lost six gymnasts to graduation, have their focus on building confidence, not on injuries or lost letter winners. That showed Saturday, when Temple placed second in a quad-meet at McGonigle Hall.
“It’s all about confidence,” assistant coach Aaron Murphy said. “We’ve got a really young team now.”
The Owls have eight freshmen, all of whom compete in all-around.
“I just tell them they’ve got to hit for themselves,” Murphy added. “The more routines they hit, the more confidence they’ll get.”
The Owls’ strong showing Saturday was certainly a boost, after the team finished fifth overall at the six-team George Washington Invitational and lost to Rutgers in a dual meet earlier this month.
The Owls beat Bridgeport and Ursinus on Saturday, but lost to Towson. Junior Noelle Moore totaled the Owls’ highest individual score with a 9.7 in floor exercise.
Temple totaled its best overall score – a 46.4 – in vault, led by sophomore Desiree Meredith’s 9.425.
“They really put their heart into it,” Murphy said of the team’s six vaulters. “They all hit, one after another.”
Though the Owls have a 2-6 record in vault, it is the team’s strongest event. It’s where the Owls shined in their dual meet against Rutgers. Murphy said the team’s scores in vault continue to improve.
Senior captain Lindsey Stern isn’t worried about vault, she said. “We have the talent and the skills,” said Stern, “[but] we just need the confidence.”
Stern is returning to form this season after suffering a sprained ankle last season. After finishing the match with a season-high 9.425 in bars and a 9.450 in floor exercise, Stern said the ankle isn’t what bothers her in competition.
“I’ve been here for four years and I still need to work on my confidence,” Stern said after the meet. “It’s all about believing in yourself.”
The Owls are suffering in competition, but from a factor that was completely out of their hands. Stern said the team lacks a “good, all around gymnast” in sophomore Christine McNeill, who tore her Achilles tendon and is out for the year.
“We’re working through all of our injuries as a team, and [we are] concentrating on using what we’ve got,” Stern said.
Murphy said the Owls believe in themselves, and so does the coaching staff.
“We put Winter [Sneed] out tonight so she could show us coaches what she could do,” Murphy said of the true freshman. “We believe she can do it, she’s got to believe it too.”
Sneed led the Owls on balance beam with a final score of 9.55, which tied her for second place overall in the meet.
“We’ve got lots of good freshmen this year,” Stern said. “[And] we practice six times per week to get everyone ready.”
Senior co-captain Deirdre Mattocks said the Owls are getting ready for Penn and a second tilt with Rutgers, two teams that Mattocks said are the Owls’ toughest opponents this season.
“We’re looking at them, but at the same time we’re just trying to beat ourselves and our own scores,” said Mattocks, who returned this season from dislocating her shoulder last March.
Mattocks was Temple’s top bar performer last season, earning her the team’s most consistent gymnast award. Like her teammates, Mattocks said she is trying to work through the injury and toward a greater cause.
“It still hurts and it’s still hard, but I just have to work through it,” Mattocks said of her injury.
Mattocks is currently competing in just one event – uneven bars. She said she hopes to be back on vault and floor exercise by March.
“It’s frustrating not being able to compete” in every event, Mattocks said. “But we’re all working on improving.”
The Owls will use the confidence they’ve built to compete in their next quad-meet on Feb. 4 at New Hampshire.
Danielle K. Milner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.