Monica Servidio
Scott Sassaman

Women's Gymnastics

Gymnastics Opens 2019 Season Friday with Quad Meet at Alabama

PHILADELPHIA— Temple women's gymnastics is poised for excellence in 2019, as the team looks to ascend to new heights following a record-breaking 2018 campaign. The Owls are set to open their 2019 slate on Friday, Jan. 4 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. They will face the No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide, as well as the Northern Illinois Huskies and the Southeast Missouri Redhawks at 7:30 p.m CT.

The Owls had a strong showing in 2018. The team opened up the season with the highest season-opening score in program history, earning a 194.875 at the Little Boston Invitational. After this first week of competition, they had their highest-ever national ranking at No. 13. The second weekend in March was historic for the Owls. On March 9, they shattered the previous record team-score (194.975, set in 2017) with a 195.800. Two days later on March 11, the team bested this mark once again, posting a 196.050 team score. They also recorded the program's best floor score (49.300) that afternoon. Ten Owls earned spots on All-ECAC teams: four First-Team honors and eight Second-Team honors.
 
The squad is under new leadership, as head coach Josh Nilson begins his first season as the Owls' head coach. Nilson, along with assistant coach Rachel Inniss and graduate assistant Zaakira Muhammad, are supremely qualified to lead the team to its ultimate goal: the postseason.

"My biggest expectation is for us to be a postseason team," said Nilson. "There is no reason why we shouldn't be top 36. I also believe we can win ECACs. It comes down to making every competition count."

The Owls are ready to make a statement in 2019. The team ranked first in the ECAC Preseason Poll with 26 points, two points ahead of Yale (24) and three ahead of Penn (23). Temple also received 30 votes in the WCGA Preseason Poll. Last season they received one vote. In preparation for competition season, the team has focused on a few concepts that will encompass what they value as team: depth, control and simplicity.

"We focused a lot on being ten deep on every event," said Nilson. "Last year, they broke a lot of records, but they had some meets that were a little tough. In my opinion that was due to depth. This year, we will be much stronger at the end of the year. The freshmen coming in help us a lot. We also have a transfer in Jazymn Estrella who has experience with a team at regionals. We have individuals that have been to regionals as well. Their perspective is going to help us a lot."

Nilson and his staff want to highlight the gymnastics and style of their student-athletes without adding unnecessary intricacies. A key aspect of this is streamlining and controlling the controllables.

"There were a lot of moving parts that we removed," said Nilson. "A lot of things weren't simple, and my staff and I are big on simplifying things. The girls know exactly what they are in charge of and understand their roles. They have control over that. They should focus on what they have control over and do the best they can."

This year's team features two strong all-around competitors in sophomore Monica Servidio and freshman Ariana Castrence. Servidio competed in the all-around twice last season for the Owls, posting a career best of 38.975. Castrence is looking to make her mark for the Owls in her first season in Cherry and White.

"Monica is calm and consistent," said Nilson. "She is pretty much always doing the same thing for us. In the gym, she's already right around our all-around record. Ariana, on the other hand, brings some gymnastics that I don't think our crowd has ever seen here before. She has really high-level tumbling and vaults. She's one of our strongest bar swingers as well. Those two, I expect to see them in the all-around for the majority of the season."

The squad is captained by senior India Anderson, junior Daisy Todd and sophomore Delaney Garin. Anderson is a mainstay on floor for the Owls, posting a career-best 9.850 last season. Todd became Temple's first ECAC vault champion, scoring a 9.825 to earn the 2018 conference championship title. She also recorded career-bests of 9.825 on both bars and beam last season. Garin competed on bars and beam in her freshman campaign, scoring career-bests of 9.575 and 9.825, respectively.

"India Anderson is going to be one of our most entertaining floor routines," said Nilson. "At the moment, Daisy is competing on bars. She led off our lineup on bars during our Cherry and White Intrasquad and did a great job. She will also work her way back into the vault lineup. Delaney is training for three events and has the potential to start in all three."

Last season, two Owls, including junior Jaylene Everett, competed at the Penn State NCAA Regional as vault specialists. Sophomore Tori Edwards was selected as an alternate for the floor exercise. Their experience and talent will be instrumental to the Owls' success this season.
 
"Jaylene Everett, a returning regional competitor, will be solid in her in events [vault and floor]," said Nilson. "She's so steady for us. Tori Edwards is likely going to start on vault and bars. Like Monica [Servidio], Tori always shows up and does a great job. To a coach, that's gold."

Newcomer Jazmyn Estrella also promises to be a spark in Temple's lineup. Coming to North Broad from Utah State, the Allentown, Pa. native will make an immediate impact. Sophomore Aryanna Anderson emerged as a key contributor as a three-eventer for the Owls.

"Jazmyn Estrella is going to be key on vault and bars for us," said Nilson. "In the past, our weakest event has been bars.  Jazmyn's incredible on them. That's her number one event. Aryanna Anderson has really come out of her shell. She is key to our depth, as she is our top backup on three events."

Temple has the components for success: a fresh and inspired coaching staff, experienced returners, talented newcomers and a unified passion to make the program known on the regional and national scale.

"Becoming relevant is something we've talked about a lot," said Nilson. "Last year and the year before, they had strong seasons. But to be relevant, you have to be in the postseason."

The Owls' 2019 slate is very competitive, as they will face two ranked teams (No. 6 Alabama at Alabama Quad Meet and No. 27 Penn State at Little Boston Invitational) in their first two meets. Overall, Temple will compete against seven teams that are ranked in the WCGA Preseason Poll (Alabama, Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Southern Utah and West Virginia). The Owls will host four home meets this season with alumni night and senior day being held the second weekend in March. The regular season wraps up with ECAC Championships in Ithaca, N.Y. on March 23 and NCAA Regionals will be held the first weekend in April.

The Owls' 2019 season will represent a mentality shift. The team aims to be considered among the best teams in the nation and they are primed to do just that.

"We are going to bring gymnastics to the table that is new to Temple," said Nilson. "We will be something that our crowd has never seen before from Temple gymnastics."
 
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