By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of 5,214 fans, sophomore Sabrina Garcia and junior Briannah Tsang punched two tickets to the 2017 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships in the all-around.
At the NCAA Gainesville Regional on April 1, Tsang finished fourth in the all-around with a score of 39.250, with Garcia close behind scoring 39.050 for a seventh-place finish.
"We're really excited to get the opportunity to compete at nationals," interim co-head coach Kera Molinaro said. "It's a really exciting opportunity for them and they'll capitalize on it. We just can't wait to represent Penn State at nationals."
To earn her spot for a chance to win a national championship, Tsang was fifth on balance beam (9.850), sixth on floor (9.850), 15th on uneven parallel bars (9.800) and 25th on vault (9.750) at regionals. But, even with those results, Tsang has been working on the small details all week to make sure that she earns the top spot on all the events at nationals.
"[Preparation this week] has been the same as usual," Tsang said. "Just doing routines, practicing and trying to rest, as well. [I've been focusing] mainly on the little things and cleaning things up. I'm making sure the routines are ready for nationals."
This weekend's trip will not be the first for Tsang as she represented Penn State last season on the floor exercise after earning a score of 9.900 at the 2016 regionals. Last year, Tsang competed in the fourth rotation in session one and tied for 16th with a score of 9.815. Overall, Tsang tied for 38th between the two sessions.
"It was really exciting last year," Tsang said. "I only competed in floor last year, and this year, I made all-around, so that's exciting. The atmosphere was great and just seeing all these teammates that are from all over the country was exciting, but this year should be even more fun."
Garcia will be joining the fun this year as she will be competing inside the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri alongside Tsang.
"It's exciting," Garcia said. "I'm glad to have a teammate with me to cheer me on and I can cheer her on, as well. I'm just excited to share the experience."
Garcia will be making her national championship debut after a stellar performance at regionals. She finished second on uneven parallel bars (9.900), 25th on balance beam (9.725), 31st on floor exercise (9.725) and 34th on vault (9.700). During competition though, the thought of competing in nationals never crossed her mind.
"I had no idea [I was a contender]," Garcia said. "I just competed until the very end since nothing is over until it's over, and when they called my name, I was shocked and happy all at the same time."
This season, Tsang has the highest all-around score on the team with 39.425. Garcia holds the second highest all-around score of 39.400 as of February 4 against Michigan State, and is ready to show the world what she can do.
"My expectations for myself are to just keep doing what I've been doing all season - to focus, stay calm, be ruthless, hit my routines, and if I need any help from Bri, I know she'll be there for me," Garcia said.
These two Nittany Lions have great confidence in themselves, and so do their coaches.
"Both Bri and Sabrina are leaders, not only in their words but in their actions," interim co-head coach Josh Nilson said. "They come in the gym and have great attitudes. They work really hard and they do everything that we ask. They both communicate very well with the coaches, so they're leaders in every sense of the word. We're really proud of them."
Even though the rest of the Penn State women's gymnastics team won't be heading to St. Louis, Missouri to cheer on Garcia and Tsang, they have been supporting their teammates in the gym during practices.
"The mood in the gym has been really good," Molinaro said. "[Tsang and Garcia] are super fired-up. They've had a lot of support from their teammates coming in and cheering for them, which was really nice to see and they feel really good. They're excited about it."
Both Tsang and Garcia have accomplished so much this season already. This weekend, they could add on to what has already been a great season for them as individuals, and the team as a whole.
"Having Bri and Sabrina both there will be good for the team because nationals next year is being held in the same arena, so having them be able to come back and tell the team what it's all about will help us on our quest to nationals next year," Nilson said. "It's also really good to have Penn State represented especially since [Bri and Sabrina] worked really hard to be there and we're really proud of them."