After holding on for a very close win of 195.950-195.850 against Penn State last Saturday, the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team is looking to step up its game for its next meet at home against No. 24 West Virginia.
The Buckeyes maintained a close lead throughout their meet against Penn State, but when they came to their fourth and final rotation on balance beam, they found it surprisingly challenging to finish strong when sophomore Kaitlyn Hofland fell off during her routine.
This uncharacteristic trouble the Buckeyes saw on beam last Saturday has the team focusing closely on the event during this week’s practices in preparation for their next meet. The lineup order for beam will also most likely change, with junior Stefanie Merkle opening on the event instead of freshman Amanda Huang.
“We’ve been hitting some great routines this week, and we know that if we can do it here, we can easily hit that lineup at the competition,” Merkle said.
The Buckeyes did see a close contest against the Nittany Lions last Saturday, but the night highlight that keep the team in the running for the win was the floor event, where the team scored a 49.200.
OSU has struggled the entire season with establishing a permanent floor lineup, but in the last meet, the Buckeyes excelled in the event despite yet another last minute lineup change when senior Erin Malone went in place of Jamie Stone due to an ankle injuring during warmup before the meet.
Junior Alexis Mattern earned a career-best of 9.925 to place first in the floor event, while junior Stefanie Merkle earned a season-high of 9.900 to take second place.
“I’ve been training really hard throughout even the season on floor,” Merkle said. “I feel like I can hit a routine in training, but something happens when I go to a meet that just doesn’t click and is like a little off, but to finally hit that routine is great.”
Even with the success on this event, the OSU floor lineup most likely will change yet again this coming meet against West Virginia.
“I think Olivia (Aepli) will go back in,” coach Carey Fagan said. “I think you won’t see Jamie (Stone) this weekend. Her ankle is still sore, so we’re probably going to not have her do floor. The good news is we have some people, some depth, that we can give them an opportunity to go.”
The OSU team’s success on bars during the last meet did not go unnoticed, posting a season-best of 49.225. Hofland had a moment of both triumph and redemption as she posted a career high of 9.925, as compared to the 8.875 she scored in the previous meet against Rutgers.
“It was my career high, but even more than the score, it was just so exciting to have my first solid stick on the dismount,” Hofland said. “That has been my goal for the past two years.”
The Buckeyes are riding on the close win they just earned, but they do not see this coming meet as a given victory over the Mountaineers. No. 24 West Virginia is 6-4 overall and has pulled similar final scores as Ohio State.
The Buckeyes hold a season-high of 196.800 from the Minnesota meet, while the Mountaineers scored a season-high of 196.300 in a quad meet against Denver, Temple and Townson.
The OSU gymnastics team consistently pulls high scores on vault, so they are counting on having that event as their opening rotation during their home meet this week.
“I think it’s nice to start on vault because you have that pre-meet adrenaline, and vault’s an event where you can actually use that to your advantage,” Fagan said. “Hopefully we’ll start off strong there. Bars and beam are two good events for us, so hopefully we’ll get a little bit of a lead going into the last event.”
With the combination of two solid performances on bars and floor from the last meet, consistent vault performances each meet and the intense focus on the beam event during this week’s practices, the Buckeyes are looking to give strong performances in all four events as a way to get an edge on West Virginia this Saturday. A solid performance puts OSU in a good position in the conference moving through the second half of the season.