Minnesota Gymnasts Edged by No. 9 Nebraska
Feb. 18, 2012
The University of Minnesota women's gymnastics team put together by far its strongest performance of the season, but it was not enough to get past No. 9 Nebraska as the Huskers defeated the Gophers, 196.850 to 196.150, in front of 1,778 at the Sports Pavilion Saturday night in Minneapolis.
Junior Janelle Campbell tied for first on the floor exercise and senior Lucy Ennis and sophomore Dusti Russell captured top-3 finishes on bars and beam, respectively, as the Gophers posted a season-high team total to go along with season-best team scores in three of four events.
"We always know we would be here (at this level) and that we had this caliber of team," said head coach Meg Stephenson. "We just started a little slowly (this season) because of some injuries and we wanted to play it safe because we want to peek at the right time. The scores matter more in the second half of the season. For us to put some upper-class gymnasts back in our lineup who are able to do their routines and have the experience is huge."
The Gophers' first two rotations were arguably their most consistent of the season. Minnesota recorded a season-tying high score of 49.050 on vault and a season-best score of 48.950 on bars for a total of 98.000 points through two events.
Sophomore Kayla Slechta was the top scorer on vault for Minnesota and equaled her season-high with a score of 9.875. Other notable performances were turned in by Russell, who scored a career-best vault of 9.850, and freshman Cierra Tomson, who scored a 9.825 to equal her career best on the apparatus.
The Gophers' results on bars, an apparatus Minnesota had struggled on this season, were also very strong. Ennis posted the meet's third-best score with a season-high tying mark of 9.850, and Campbell equaled her season-best mark of the year with a 9.800. Two Gophers notched career marks, with Tomson earning a 9.825 for her routine and Russell receiving a 9.750 from the judges.
Nebraska, meanwhile, was piling up the points as well, scoring a season-best 49.575 on vault and registering a near-miss season-high point total on bars with a 49.225 to forge a. 0.800-point lead with 98.800 combined points. The meet's vault champion, the Huskers' Janelle Giblin, even received the night's only perfect score of 10.0 from one of the judges for her vault en route to winning the apparatus with a final score of 9.950. In all, the Huskers posted the top four vault scores and three of the top four bar routines during the first two rotations.
The Gophers kept the pressure on during the third rotation, recording their second-best beam score of the year with 48.900 points. Russell rode a season-high score of 9.875 to finish in the third, while Tomson continued her strong night with a career-high score of 9.750.
Minnesota closed the gap to its smallest margin of the evening during the fourth and final rotation with a season-high point total of 49.250. The Gophers received four of the top five scores in the event, led by Campbell's career-tying high score of 9.900. Slechta and Russell tied for third with a scores of 9.850, while Tomson and freshman Kylie Schermann tied for fifth with scores of 9.825.
Stephenson said she was also proud of how the Gophers rallied together as a team and the trust the team displayed in each other.
"A team is really good if they can count on each other," said Stephenson. "Tonight they could count on each other. We were confident that we were going to perform well and that is huge for a team. That is the best thing that came out of tonight."
Minnesota hits the road for its next three meets, beginning on Feb. 24 at Iowa, before returning to the Sports Pavilion to face Iowa State in its final home meet of the season on March 10. Stephenson said that it will be critical for the Gophers to continue fine tuning their performances during this stretch for the critical run-in to the season.
"I think the next step we have is to just polish-up our landings and fine tune things," Stephenson said. "We're hitting our hand-stands on bars, sticking our vaults, sticking our landings on dismounts. We have been working hard on all those things and we'll continue to do that. We're progressing and we're really proud of tonight's result."