The No. 15 Gophers women’s gymnastics team took a small step backwards Saturday night in Springfield, Mass., where it finished with a 193.650 in a meet with No. 16 UMass, Vermont, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Minnesota previously broke its school-record team score last week, recording a 195 in a loss to No. 3 Utah. Gophers coach Jim Stephenson said the team needed to keep its scores around 195 to continue moving up in the national rankings. The Gophers’ score Saturday was their third highest of the season.
“We know it doesn’t reflect our real potential,” Stephenson said. “We felt when we scored a 195 last week that was a good reflection of our ability, and this comes just a little short of that.”
Massachusetts (6-3) controlled the meet in its home gym, scoring a 194.9. The Gophers (5-4) finished second, followed by Vermont with a 181.275 and MIT with a 176.050.
Vermont and MIT have less funding and do not have the scholarship money available to bring in top recruits. As a result, they could not compete with Minnesota and Massachusetts.
The Gophers’ problems on the balance beam have multiplied. Three Gophers fell off the beam, including two of Minnesota’s top performers on the event.
“We are becoming really frustrated with it,” Stephenson said. “We’ve really tried everything with this, and we know our people are capable of doing well there.”
Stephenson said the balance beam is the one event holding them back from bringing in higher team scores and coming away with more victories.
“The majority of the time during the year we are getting 50 to 75 percent, and that is not going to do it,” he added.
Even though Minnesota’s problems with the beam continue to hamper the team, the Gophers excelled on all other events.
Junior Stacey Batza recorded a personal best on the vault, scoring a 9.9. Her score ties the Gophers’ high score on the event, which was recorded last year by junior Kim Sveum. Sveum tied for second on the event Saturday with a 9.750.
Freshman Judith Cavazos tied for first place on the uneven bars with UMass’s Anita Sanyal with a 9.8. On floor exercise, junior Mindy Knaeble took first place with a 9.9.
Despite these accomplishments, Stephenson said college gymnastics is not about winning individual prizes.
“The bottom line is your team score,” Stephenson said. “When three people do poorly and all those people happen to be on the same event, then all of that effort from everyone else is diminished because of the effect of the falls on the team score.”
No. 12 Minnesota (3-2) finished a distant second in a tri-dual meet Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M. No. 9 New Mexico (3-2) ran away with the meet scoring a 228.550, followed by the Gophers with 222.400 and No. 22 California-Santa Barbara (3-6) with a 204.700.
Despite the Lobos’ domination of the final team score, Minnesota managed to nab several individual honors.
The Gophers had their best outing of the season on the parallel bars. Freshman Chad Connor, whom Coach Fred Roethlisberger calls the Gophers’ best on the event, took first place with a personal best score of 9.7. Also scoring a career-best on the event was junior Bob Hubbard with a 9.65; good for sharing second place with New Mexico’s Gary Thagard and Lateef Crowder.
Senior Frank Ticknor was the only other Gopher to win a first place individual honor. Ticknor won the all-around with a 56.15, while teammate freshman Lindsey Fang took third, scoring a 53.65.
Ticknor also finished fourth on vault, second on the still rings and second on the floor exercise.
The Gophers’ other senior, Heath Wall, continued his consistent performances. Wall finished second on the rings, tying his personal best score of 9.75. He was also second on the high bar with a 9.45.
Junior George Beatty recorded a career-best score on the pommel horse with a 9.75, which was good for second place. Following him was Hubbard with a 9.6, also a career-best. Hubbard finished in a three-way tie with New Mexico’s Justin DeLaHunt and Jon Dickey for third place.