Tar Heels Top Undefeated Pittsburgh, Move to 3-0 At Home

Courtesy of: Hillary Margolia

The North Carolina gymnastics team gracefully handed Pittsburgh its first loss of the season tonight in Carmichael Arena, as it defeated the Panthers 194.800-193.875. The Tar Heels remain undefeated at home and move to 3-1 in the Eastern Atlantic Gymnastics League, 4-2 overall.

“Overall, I was really pleased with the grit that this team showed tonight. And we were fortunate to catch Pittsburgh on a night that it wasn’t necessarily doing its best,” said Head Coach Derek Galvin.

“We certainly can’t control the other team, and we can’t control the judges. The only thing that our student athletes can control is their attitude, their effort and their heart,” Galvin commented. “If they bring positivity and the full measure of their heart, then we’re going to have success.”

Sarah Peterson started off strong for the Heels on vault with a score of 9.725. Reigning EAGL Gymnast of the Week, Lexi Cappalli, took to the vault next, scoring a 9.675. Kristin Aloi, competing on beam for the first time since her foot injury last year, earned a 9.800 and a well-deserved ovation from the crowd. Haley Watts scored the highest for the Heels with a near perfect 9.850 to finish first overall, and Margaret Brown competed last, rounding out a solid team performance with a 9.575. At the end of round one, Carolina led the Panthers 48.625 to 48.000.

“Tonight was the first time I vaulted since I was injured, and the experience was unreal,” said Aloi. “I’ve never felt my team behind me more than I did that moment [before her vault].”

The Heels moved on to the uneven bars, where they dominated last meet with a team score of 48.950. Tonight, they outdid themselves; they found the little ways to further improve their routines and combined for a season high score of 49.025. The team swept the event, as Michelle Ikoma snatched first place with a 9.850, Acacia Cosentino second with a 9.825, Watts third with a 9.800, Josselyn Mackey and Cappalli each scored a 9.775 to tie for fourth, and Megan Marenghi placed sixth with a 9.775. Every one of Pittsburgh’s competitors finished behind the Heels. Heading into round three, Carolina totaled 97.650.

On beam, Meredith Magjuka opened with a score of 9.725. Cappalli competed next for the Heels, scoring a 9.750 to tie with Marenghi for second place. Janell Sargent, who has remained consistent on beam all season, placed first overall with a high score of 9.825. Watts added a 9.700, and Mackey recovered from her fall to earn a 9.175.

UNC finished off the meet on floor. The Heels had to utilize their depth to make do without freshman Christina Pheil, one of their strongest floor competitors, who jammed her ankle last meet against Maryland. Cappalli took first place with an impeccable performance that earned her a 9.875. Watts finished second for the Heels, third overall, with a 9.800. Aloi also stepped up and scored a 9.700. Magjuka scored a 9.650, Peterson added a 9.375 and Brown fought to earn an 8.875 for her first time officially competing on floor this year.

Carolina totaled a score of 194.800 for the meet, marking its highest final team score this season.

“To come in knowing that we only had five competitors up on two of the events, and to come away with a 194.800, which is our highest score of the season,” said Galvin, “It’s satisfying, as a coach, to see these student athletes perform that way.”

Watts finished first in the all-around with a score of 39.150, her second highest total this year, and Cappalli took second, with a score of 39.075 for all four events. Pittsburgh’s only all-arounder, Brittney Harris, placed third behind Watts and Cappalli with a 38.850.

The Tar Heels head to Chicago for the Chicago Style Invitational next Friday, Feb. 7. They return to Carmichael on Friday, Feb. 28, when they will host Towson University at 7 p.m for their last home meet of the season.