CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For the first time since 2013, the University of North Carolina gymnastics team will compete as a team at the NCAA Regional meet in Gainesville, Fla. The sixth-ranked Tar Heels will face off against five highly talented teams – Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Hampshire and Penn State – at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center starting at 4 p.m. on Sat., April 1.
UNC head coach Derek Galvin recognizes that most of his gymnasts are new to the NCAA scene. Galvin noted, “We have a few people on the team who competed there last year, but the vast majority have not. Morgan [Lane], Kaitlynn [Hedelund], Christina [Pheil], Madison [Nettles], and Lauren [Weisel] competed there last year, but nobody else.” Carolina hopes the team’s enthusiasm and passion for the sport of gymnastics will help move them forward into the next round of competition despite their lack of NCAA experience.
Following several injuries, the team struggled on the uneven bars against UCLA and at the EAGL Championship meet. “Certainly, we want to show a stronger team than we have shown the last two meets,” he commented. “If we can do what we did on the floor, beam, and vault at EAGL and put together a good bar line-up, you never know. We can surprise some people and that’s the intent. We are seeded sixth and we want to move up in that – we want to finish higher than sixth.”
Galvin has also been channeling some inspirations from the UNC men’s basketball team’s run in the NCAA tournament to motivate his athletes. Knowing only two teams make it to the next competition, Galvin explains, “We’re certainly taking some inspiration from [North Carolina’s] men’s basketball and the phenomenal way they’ve played. The team is excited about competing at Florida since that’s the regional site we were hoping to get. What we keep talking about is – and we borrowed this a little bit from the South Carolina coach – why not us?”
With many family members and Carolina fans already planning to attend the meet, the UNC gymnastics team wants to show what they are capable of against elite competition this weekend.
WEEK #11: TAR HEELS TAKE FOURTH AT EAGL CHAMPIONSHIPS
North Carolina placed fourth of six teams at the EAGL championship meet on March 18. With an overall score of 194.525, Carolina bested Pittsburgh (194.100) and Towson (193.225), but fell short of the overall scores of George Washington (196.275), New Hampshire (195.075) and NC State (194.875).
UNC finished the first rotation on bars with a score of 47.475, putting them in sixth place to start the meet. Madison Nettles and Emma Marchese placed in a seven-way tie for tenth place in the competition with scores of 9.750. Morgan Lane earned the next highest score on bars for the Tar Heels with a 9.725 while teammate Kaitlynn Hedelund scored a 9.525. Though off to a slow start, Carolina gradually made up some ground on their opponents.
The second rotation helped the Heels recover from the initial score gap. Earning an overall of 49.100 on beam, UNC moved up to fifth place. Alexis Allen led Carolina on beam with a career-high score of 9.875, positioning her in a four-way tie for fourth place. Khazia Hislop and Emma Marchese both posted scores of 9.825, which earned them a spot in the seven-way tie for 13th place. Morgan Lane also added a score of 9.775 for the Tar Heels.
On floor exercise, Carolina received the third best team score in the event with a season-high score of 49.125. Leading the Tar Heels with scores of 9.850, Khazia Hislop, Morgan Lane and Emma Marchese tied five other competitors – the Wolfpack’s Drew Grantham and four gymnasts from George Washington – for third place. Lauren Weisel also found herself in a six-way tie for 13th place with a score of 9.800, and Madison Nettles followed closely behind with a score of 9.775 on floor. While the team earned a season best floor overall score and moved into fourth place in the EAGL competition, Emma Marchese and Lauren Weisel set new career records in the event.
Just one week after the UCLA meet where three Tar Heels – Morgan Lane, Emma Marchese, Mikayla Robinson – set season bests on vault and the team earned a season-high event score of 49.100, UNC finished off the fourth rotation of the EAGL Championship with a team score of 48.825 on vault. Morgan Lane tied George Washington’s Chelsea Raineri for third place with a score of 9.825, while Kaitlynn Hedelund and Alexis Allen were in a six-way tie for seventh place with scores of 9.775. Tying eight other gymnasts, Madison Nettles scored 9.750 on her vault to finish in 13th place. Additionally, Mikayla Robinson tacked on a score of 9.700 to the team’s overall.
Though George Washington’s Camille Drouin-Allaire took home first place in the all-around competition with a score of 39.400, Morgan Lane and Emma Marchese accomplished their own personal feats at EAGL Championship. Lane tied NC State’s Chelsea Knight and New Hampshire’s Meghan Pflieger for third place with a score of 39.175. In her second attempt at all-around competition, Marchese improved upon her score from UCLA to set a new career-high score of 39.125, which earned her sixth place alongside George Washington’s Alex DeMoura.
Following the conclusion of the meet, the annual EAGL awards were announced, with Morgan Lane taking home Gymnast of the Year honors, Khazia Hislop earning the Rookie of the Year and Amy Smith being named Assistant Coach of the Year.
North Carolina will face off against Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Penn State this weekend at the NCAA Regionals in Gainesville. Though UNC has yet to face Georgia, Missouri and Penn State this year, the Tar Heels have competed against both the Gators and the Wildcats. UNC started out the season with a loss against the Florida Gators (197.325 – 194.300), but defeated New Hampshire about halfway through competition season (195.875 – 195.075). North Carolna also faced off against the Wildcats at the EAGL Championship, where the team took home second place.
Top-ranked Florida holds a season-high of 197.975 which they recorded in a meet against the second-highest seeded team, Georgia. While the Bulldogs’ season best score is 197.325, Missouri (197.200), New Hampshire (196.450), and Penn State (196.200) could also provide some serious competition for the Tar Heels whose highest score this year remains 195.875.Despite the differences in scores so far, Galvin believes his team will undoubtedly make an impact in the meet. “Wherever we finish,” Galvin remarks, “we want people that attended the meet to walk out impressed by the enthusiasm and the energy our team showed.”