UNIVERSITY PARK - Despite a couple remarkable individual performances, the Penn State women's gymnastics team came up just short of No. 17 Illinois 195.725-195.025 Friday evening.
"I feel like they got a lot better tonight and they had a lot of fun. They were focusing on the process instead of the result," Thompson said. "Instead of trying to hit the routine they were thinking about how to do the routine. If we can get to where we do that every meet every time they will have a great season."
The Nittany Lions jumped off to a quick lead posting the team's best vault score of the season with a 48.925. Briannah Tsang remained undefeated on vault as she took home her third straight vault title against the Fighting Illini.
"Bri's a special athlete. She had a lot of international experience before she came to Penn State," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "She was in the Canadian Olympic trials and she's competed in world cup events. She knows how to handle pressure."
In the second rotation for the Nittany Lions, Chanen Raygoza led the team on the uneven bars by putting up her best score of the season and tying for first place in the uneven bars for the meet with a 9.900.
"I was definitely just more confident in myself," Raygoza said. "I trained a lot in the gym this week and hit a lot of routines so I felt good about it."
Although it was her best score of the season and tied her career-best score, Coach Thompson thinks there is much more to come from the sophomore.
"Chanen did a great bar routine with a great stuck dismount. But Chanen will tell you that the bar routines she does in the gym every day are better than that," Thompson said. "She rushed a little bit and she was a little short on both handstands. It was a great routine and great score, but the more comfortable she gets, the more confidence she develops. She will be able to do in competition what she does in practice. Then she will score a 10."
The biggest improvement for Penn State came on the beam. For the first time this season, all six gymnasts hit their beam routines. Kiera Brown and Nicole Medvitz tied for third in beam each with a score of 9.850.
"We went to beam and I felt like we tensed up just a little bit," Thompson said. "They hit all six routines and put up a nice score. There was a big sigh of relief afterwards because of the first two home meets."
The Nittany Lions entered their final rotation ahead of the Fighting Illini 147.200-146.525. Sabrina Garcia started the floor exercise with a score of 9.700 followed by a 9.675 by Brown. Jessica Jones stepped onto the floor prepared to perform her routine from the first meet of the season.
"There was already a lot of pressure on the girls because we only had five gymnasts that could compete on floor tonight. Normally you compete six and you can drop a score," Thompson said. "When you have that mulligan it takes the pressure off of everyone knowing if I do mess up we don't have to count it."
Not having that mulligan hurt Penn State when, on her final pass, Jones' feet kicked out from under her causing her to fall. Briannah Tsang followed by tying her career high and set a season high score of 9.925 on the floor.
"[Tsang's] floor routine was beautiful," Thompson said. "So big exclamation point for her on the night."
The Nittany Lions posted their best score of the season with a 195.025.
"I think that we as a team have done really good. This meet especially, we have improved a lot and have gotten a lot more confident," Raygoza said. "We are going to just work on continuing doing what we are doing. Each week we are improving so we will just keeping going up from here."