Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Based on the rankings for collegiate women's gymnastics teams, there may have been doubts on how Penn State would perform at the Big Five Qualifier this past weekend. However, the NIttany Lions team ignored the outside noise, put all their effort into each routine, and finished third with a score of 195.450.
With a top-three finish, the Nittany Lions will begin their quest for the Big Ten title during the evening session of the Big Ten Championships at Piscataway, NJ on Saturday.
"The [Big Ten Qualifier] is a big confidence booster for them," interim co-head coach Josh Nilson said. "We were not supposed to make the evening session. We had a bit of a rocky start on uneven bars, but they pulled it together, came through in a big way on balance beam, and just kept the momentum going. Going from not supposed to be in the evening session to 'making it', it's a huge confidence booster for them."
Coming off its fifth-highest score of the season, the Nittany Lions learned what they had to focus on to capture the conference title - the small details.
"The last couple of weeks, we have been focusing on our level," said Nilson. "We are going to continue focusing on the team and really talking to them about the little things. Focusing on the small details is really what [we've been] working on all week, and fortunately, we're up to full strength in all of our lineups, so really, it's all about us and the small things this weekend."
For junior Briannah Tsang, the Big Ten Championships will be nothing new for her. She knows what's on the line and knows how to handle the pressure from all the different teams. Nonetheless, she understands that there could always be room for improvements.
"We're all just trying to fix the minor details and hope we can gain little half-tenths here and there," Tsang said.
Tsang has been working all season long for this weekend and is prepared to do her best.
"The upperclassmen, they're extremely motivated," Nilson said. "They're pushing the younger athletes. The upperclassmen want to perform at their very best and they're pushing the entire team. The leadership on this team has come together and they're pushing really hard. They want to surprise people this weekend."
After the Big Five Qualifier, four Nittany Lions earned All-Big Ten honors. Tsang and sophomore Sabrina Garcia received First Team All-Big Ten honors. Senior Nicole Medvitz and freshman Kristen Politz got mentions for the Second Team All-Big Ten.
Even though this is Politz's first time competing in the championship, the coaches know that she is as good as any of the other gymnasts.
"Kristen understands her gymnastics and she trusts herself," Nilson said. "When we talk to her, we just simplify it for her. We make it something that she has done her whole life and I think we'll be focused on her performance, which is something we've worked on really for the last few weeks; focusing on the controllable."
Tsang hopes to use her leadership and experience to help the freshmen, and she's ready to tell the world what Penn State gymnastics is all about.
"I hope that we can bring the freshmen in there, make sure they have a lot of fun, and just do what we normally do," Tsang said. "We're going to carry the momentum from the weekend and keep the ball rolling. We're all really excited for Big Ten's and showing everyone what we can do."