After five consecutive seasons of finishing at least .500 or better, the Toll Gate gymnastics team never quite put it together last year. The Titans finished 0-10 in Division II, narrowly missing out on a few wins along the way.
While they likely won’t make a complete return to the upper tier of the division, there is enough talent to get close to that .500 mark, and that’s what the Titans will be shooting for as the season goes on.
“I was hoping we were going to do a little bit better than last year,” head coach Christy DeMelis said. “I knew we had some freshmen coming in, so I’m optimistic we’re going to do a little bit better.”
There are a total of 10 girls on the team, only three of which are returners from last season. The Titans graduated their top performer, Molly Fox, who came in 36th at least year’s state meet.
But to go along with the returners this year are two other girls who competed their freshman and sophomore years, took last year off and are now back with the team.
That gives Toll Gate some experience to fall back on. There are also three freshman and a sophomore who are helping the cause.
“They’re all great kids and hard-working and great to have on the team,” DeMelis said.
The captain of the team is senior Lindsay Proulx. The other two returning seniors are Tiffany Meunier and Alyssa Dolan. Brianna Santopietro and Cara Coogan are the two girls back with the team after the hiatus last year.
Proulx took a big step forward last year and she’ll be a solid part of the team. Santopietro and Coogan are both big additions.
“They’ve contributed quite a bit to our team total,” DeMelis said. “Cara has been our beam leader, and Brianna is probably our second, as far as all-around gymnast.”
The team’s top gymnast is freshman Katelyn Foeller, who competes outside of high school as well.
Foeller has made an immediate impact, as she could potentially qualify for the state meet as an individual in both the floor and the beam events.
“She’ll be our team leader without a doubt,” DeMelis said. “She’s talented, and she’s just graceful and just very clean. I haven’t had someone like that in a long time.”
Other members of the team are Katherine Eminger, Eren Oztunk, Taylor Payton and Amber Proulx.
“The new girls have really impressed me,” DeMelis said. “Some of them don’t have as much talent as some past gymnasts I’ve had, but they’re pretty much trying anything I throw at them. They’ve all become all-around gymnasts.”
So far this season, the Titans are 0-2. They lost their first meet of the season to defending D-II champion West Warwick, but that was expected. West Warwick, Warwick Vets and Exeter-West Greenwich are the likely top three finishers in the division, in some order.
“I knew that would be tough, but it was a good meet to start the season because there wasn’t as much pressure,” DeMelis said. “It was a good meet for the girls to get their feet wet.”
The next meet – this past Saturday against Mt. Hope – was a tough one to take.
The Titans improved on their 105 score against West Warwick to 108.95 against Mt. Hope, putting themselves on the verge of a victory.
But when the final point totals came in, Mt. Hope had a 109 – .05 points ahead.
“It was the most heartbreaking loss,” DeMelis said. “We weren’t sure (about the score). The whole time, they had a couple of girls who are really high-level gymnasts. When they had the 109, it was the sad part. I would have rather them beat us by 15 or 20 points.”
Still, the improvement from one meet to the next was a positive step. Plus, Toll Gate will get another shot at Mt. Hope later in the season, and is hoping to earn a win in the rematch.
The Titans should also have realistic chances to beat Portsmouth and North Smithfield, getting themselves back into the win column for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
They’ll have a shot this Saturday against Portsmouth at 3:30 p.m. at the YMCA Newport County.
“I think Portsmouth and North Smithfield, I’m pretty much counting on those wins,” DeMelis said. “That would give us four, and if we can catch Mt. Hope next time around that will give us five.”