Nittany Lions Place Third at Home Opener

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By Sallie Sharer, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The women's gymnastics team placed third in its home opener quad meet with Towson, Minnesota, and Kent State in Rec Hall on Saturday night.

8492187.jpegPenn State started the meet strong with three terrific rotations, but a pair of injuries hindered the Lions' efforts in the latter rotation en route to a third-place finish.

After the first rotation, Penn State took the lead with a score of 48.800 after it's performance on vault.  Senior Sharaya Musser posted the highest score on vault for the Lions, receiving a 9.850.

Penn State was on the uneven bars for the second rotation. The Lions continued their efforts posting a team score of 48.925, narrowly staying ahead of Kent State.

Co-captain and senior Madison Merriam currently holds the highest individual score for the Lions on uneven bars, but hit her foot on the low bar at the end of her routine, resulting in a fall Saturday night on the event, earning a score of 8.500.

In Penn State's third rotation and the absence of Merriam in the lineup, sophomore Krystal Welsh stepped in and performed on beam earning a score of 9.725.

Welsh proved to be invaluable on Saturday night after coming off of an injury.

"It was awesome," Musser said. "For her to step up and perform on beam like she did was amazing. She's been training real well, but she hasn't had experience competing, and it's always a different feeling than practice, but she handled it well."

Musser was the last to perform the event in their second rotation and secured the lead for Penn State with a 9.800 along with junior Kassidy Stauder and freshman Samantha Musto.

If the message Penn State was sending by the third rotation wasn't clear, it certainly was after it dominated in beam. Stauder and Musser both posted 9.900 in the event lending to Penn State posting its highest balance beam score so far this season.

The competition did not trail to far behind, however. Going into the fourth and final rotation, Penn State boasted a 146.975. Kent State followed with a 146.425. With a small margin for error, Penn State went into the floor event in hopes of finishing the meet strong.

But an injury for Penn State stumped their last event.

Consecutive two-time winner of Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Musto landed hard part-way through her floor routine, and though she tried to work through it and finish, the pain was just too overpowering.

"When she thought she was landing, she wasn't at the ground yet. She hyper extended her knee a little bit," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "The way she was hurting, I don't think she is going to be back in the all-around next week, let's put it that way."

Thompson added that "it's going to be a wait and see," situation.

The two injuries were a variable the Lions had not yet had to work through, and it proved too much to overcome Saturday night.

"We're not strong enough depth wise, and we weren't mentally strong enough to handle that happening," Thompson said. "That's all about learning, and all about growing as a team, and I guarantee you they'll be tougher next week."

Penn State debuted its new arena set up which made effective use of the entire floor in Rec Hall. With a packed house, fans could get a good look at every event.

"I liked it," Musser said. "Obviously for me as a senior and having competed for three years with it the other way, it was definitely a change. It was a good change, that way the setup was new for the entire team, everyone competed today with it being new for the first time."

Penn State will return to Rec Hall on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. to take on the Iowa, Rutgers, and Pittsburgh in a quad meet.

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