Tight loss leaves women optimistic

The Gophers want to work on a few areas before the Big Ten Championships.

by Mark Heise

Bring on the postseason.

The Minnesota women’s gymnastics team finished off the regular season on Saturday, tuning up for next week’s Big Ten Championships with 194.65-194.625 loss to West Virginia at the Sports Pavilion.

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big ten championship
when: 6 p.m. Saturday
where: State College, Pa.

The Gophers attempted to upgrade on vault coming into the meet and showed off their improvement on landings, grabbing a season-high home score to improve their regional qualifying score.

“It feels good knowing that we’ve been improving every week,” junior Ashley Stanton said. “It would have been nice to get a 195 tonight, but we did what we had to do and that’s what matters.”

Minnesota started on the vault, immediately putting up five solid scores. Sophomore Jade Beattie tallied a 9.675 early in the rotation, with sophomore Carmelina Carabajal bringing up the back of the rotation with a team-high 9.825.

The Gophers’ early success allowed junior Ashley Mutchler to attempt an upgraded vault, moving from a start value of 9.9 to 10.0.

Mutchler came just short of landing the vault, but coach Jim Stephenson still expressed confidence in her ability to complete the vault in coming weeks. Minnesota came away with a solid team score of 48.65.

The Gophers’ routines on the uneven bars continued to be a pleasant surprise, as the remaining core of an injury-ridden lineup posted a 48.6.

Junior Rehana Russell led the way with a season-high 9.75, while junior Andy Cornelius and freshman Alexis Russell posted the same score of 9.75.

“We’ve been working a lot on sticking our landings, and I think we had a lot of success with that in all of our events,” Rehana Russell said. “That’s important for us at this point, because that will really help us save tenths (of points).”

Minnesota survived two near-falls on the balance beam, but with help from junior Angela Walker, Stanton and Mutchler – who all had a team-high score of 9.8 – the Gophers totaled a 48.425 team score.

The beam score was nowhere near last week’s score of 49.0, but the slight setback didn’t appear to cause any concern, as junior Amanda Miles’ uncharacteristically low score will likely not be repeated.

Minnesota once again finished the night strong, picking up its highest team score on the floor for the sixth consecutive week.

Cornelius led the way for the Gophers, scoring a team high 9.825 as Minnesota tallied a 48.95.

With no glaring problems a week before the Big Ten Championships, Stephenson said he was very pleased with how his team is progressing, but mentioned small changes for the postseason.

“We’re going to make a few minor changes to some of the exercises to simplify them, while keeping them at the same point values,” he said. “The plan all year has been to peak in the next few weeks and the team has worked hard to make that happen. Now we just have to execute.”

Successful road trip

The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team got what coach Mike Burns said his team wanted out of Saturday’s meet at Illinois-Chicago.

The Gophers got back into the swing of things following their week off, picking up a 213.3-205.4 win to finish the regular season.

Senior Jake Lee led the team picking up 53.45 points to win the all-around, while freshman Andre Berry finished third with 51.45.

Burns said he was happy with the team’s performance, but addressed a few issues as well.

“We were a little rough in some spots, but we really came through the meet despite that,” he said. “The good thing is that we’re able to focus on what we need to work on this coming week.”