Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the past two seasons, the Penn State women's gymnastics team has opened its Big Ten conference slate by competing against Nebraska. This 2017 season will be no different. The Nittany Lions will head to Lincoln, Neb., for the Big Ten opener against the Huskers on Sunday, Jan. 15.
"It's good and bad when you face one of the top teams in the nation early in the season," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "You can catch them off guard or they can be 100 percent healthy because they haven't done a whole lot yet. Since they came into the league, Penn State has yet to defeat Nebraska in a women's gymnastics meet, but I think we're going to do it on Sunday."
Sunday's meet will mark the start of Nebraska's season, but the Blue & White are coming off a first-place finish in their first meet of the season last Saturday, where Penn State (194.625) defeated BYU (194.225), Temple (191.925) and Bowling Green (190.725), respectfully. Penn State also won on the vault, balance beam and floor exercise.
"One of the advantages we have this year is that we competed last weekend, so we had a chance to go out there and shake some of the rust off," coach Thompson said. "The freshmen got a chance to see what it's like and what it feels like to [compete in collegiate athletics]. Also, competing on the road, there's normally less pressure than when you compete at home because no one knows you when you're on the road."
Even with less stress, Thompson knew that if the team wanted better results for the first away meet of the season, they had to change their preparation and practice for this week.
"Normally, we train two days, take a day off, train two days and travel, but we have a lack of depth at the moment and we're going to have four gymnasts compete in the all-around this weekend," coach Thompson said. "We decided that we're going to train [Thursday], give them [Friday] completely off and we'll travel on Saturday so they have two days completely off from gymnastics to get rested up."
The main focus during these practices is to clean up the vault landings and work on bars, but it's always important to look for perfection on beam and floor exercise, too.
"Every meet, unless you score 20 perfect 10's or a 200, there's always room for improvement," coach Thompson said. "This weekend, we will have every routine, every score that we counted last weekend, except one beam person, so we should be able to do as well as we did last Saturday and hopefully we can eliminate the mistakes."
This Sunday will also feature a different format, as the Huskers will host Penn State in a "Tumble & Rumble" event, where both women's gymnastics and wrestling will be competing simultaneously at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
"Obviously, the more you compete, the more experience you get," coach Thompson said. "Last year we had seven freshmen so half the team had no experience at the beginning of the season. This year, we have three freshmen. Only one is competing this weekend, so she's going to contribute to three of the 24 routines, so 90 percent of the routines are coming from upperclassmen. We're very confident in where they are right now and our expectations are high for them this weekend."