The No. 25 Ohio State women’s gymnastics team is looking for redemption away from home against No. 7 Denver on Saturday, after falling to the Pioneers 196.900-195.225 last weekend at St. John Arena.
The Buckeyes were neck-and-neck in the previous meet with Denver, but lost their edge in the third rotation on balance beam when junior Stefanie Merkle, junior Alexis Mattern and sophomore Kaitlyn Hofland all fell during their routines. With improvement as a major goal for the week, the OSU team is looking to make some lineup changes on beam in preparation for the Saturday meet at Denver.
“We actually did a pretty heavy beam assignment for the whole week, and so we’re just tracking stats and practicing a lot to see everyone’s hit ratio,” OSU coach Carey Fagan said. “We’ll take a look at that tonight after practice and kind of base the lineup off of who has had a really good week and who’s got good competitive experience.”
The Buckeyes have had a season-long struggle to establish consistent lineups for each event, and this coming meet is no exception. Some of the OSU athletes have been facing recurring agitation to previous injuries including Mattern with her shoulder, sophomore Jamie Stone with her ankle and junior Taylor Harrison with her lower back.
Injuries aren’t the only thing hurting the Buckeyes, but illness as well. Many of the OSU gymnasts were experiencing cold symptoms during the last meet, and are continuing to recover this week.
“We had the stomach bug that was passed around,” Fagan said. “Taylor had it. Lexy had it. I think Jamie had it a little bit.”
Fagan said she wants the team to focus on making adjustments and perfections to their routines, but considering the number of injuries and illnesses experienced, it’s a question whether or not all the athletes will practice enough before Saturday’s meet.
“It boils down to the number of reps we can get them in practice to really make improvements on the weekend,” Fagan said. “The biggest thing we’re trying to accomplish this week is making improvements in practice. The reality of all of a sudden getting better on a weekend isn’t a reality. It doesn’t happen.”
Harrison said she is looking forward to the trip to Denver. She said that there seems to be a different kind of energy in the Pioneers’ arena that she and the rest of the team use for momentum.
Fagan agreed that her team focuses more during away meets.
“I think that this particular team does better on the road, only in a sense that at home, there can be a lot more detractions.” Fagan said. “When we get on the road, really it’s just a business trip. The focus is really on the home team.”
With the previous meet fresh in their minds, the Buckeyes are looking to take back the win on the Pioneers’ own turf.
“As a mindset, I feel like this is kind of redemption for us,” Harrison said. “In those first two events (in the last meet), it was so exciting to see how close we were. So I know that if we can just go this weekend — I really believe beam makes you or breaks you — I feel like we’re going to nail it.”
Although the Buckeyes have their eyes on redemption against Denver, coach Fagan views their personal away score as the priority. The top 36 teams qualify for NCAAs in April, and a score more than 194.375 — the team’s lowest away-meet score — would positively affect the team’s regional qualifying score in the national rankings.
“I’ve said multiple weeks in a row, this is a (196.000) team, it just is,” Fagan said. “The routines we’re putting out are high difficulty and they’re really high level routines. So if we can hit them all, it would be an easy 196.”