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Notre Dame College is about to bring it on: The Falcons acrobatics & tumbling team opens its inaugural season Sunday, February 12.

The College’s first home meet is set for March 16, at 6 p.m. against No. 15 West Liberty University. Notre Dame competes against No. 7 Fairmont State and Glenville State universities, in the opening away meet at 2 p.m. in Fairmont, W.Va.

The Mountain East Conference Tournament (MEC) will take place from April 14-15, with the highest seed in the regular season standings hosting both days. The top four teams qualify for the tournament.

MEC members Fairmont State (No. 7), Frostburg State (No. 12) and West Liberty (No. 15) all have been listed in the National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) Preseason National Poll. Fairmont State has been picked to win the conference and Notre Dame is in fifth place in the MEC preseason poll, which is voted on by the coaches.

Acrobatics & tumbling is an NCAA emerging sport that combines gymnastics and competitive cheerleading. The Falcons first-year head coach is Nikki Pizzi, who joined the College in August 2021.

Rising Head Coach

Prior to coaching, Pizzi was a five-year member of the Gannon University acrobatics & tumbling program from 2016-2021. While obtaining her master’s degree and competing in her fifth year, Pizzi was a coach at CheerVIBE in Erie, Pa., working with advanced cheer and tumbling among ages 5-23.

Pizzi was named a National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) All-American as well as Gannon’s Senior Student-Athlete of the Year in 2021. While at Gannon, Pizzi made three national championship appearances and competed in multiple event final championships. She helped secure a NCATA National Championship in the Inversion Pyramid event in 2018.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise science in 2020 and a master’s degree in applied exercise science in 2021, both from Gannon. Pizzi is originally from Wallingford, Conn.

Emerging Sport

The NCATA currently has 30 NCAA colleges and universities sponsoring the sport, which is a discipline of gymnastics involving tumbling, tosses, acrobatic lifts and pyramids.

An athletics program must have a minimum of 20 varsity teams and/or competitive club teams that have competed in a minimum of five contests to be considered for the emerging sports program. Each sport must reach 40 varsity programs to move forward to the NCAA governance structure for championship consideration.

The NCAA’s Emerging Sports for Women program has been in existence since 1994. In the past 21 years, several sports have reached championship status, including beach volleyball, rowing, ice hockey, water polo and bowling.

Before the latest additions or acrobatics & tumbling and women’s wrestling, the program featured three athletics: equestrian, rugby and triathlon. Sports have 10 years to gain championship status or make meaningful progress toward that goal to remain on the list.

January 2023
Notre Dame Athletics contributed to this story

About Notre Dame College

Notre Dame College is a private, Catholic, liberal arts college in South Euclid committed to teaching students how to make a good living and live a good life. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master’s degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. For more information, visit