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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The stands of Rec Hall were a sea of pink as the No. 17 Nittany Lions hosted the preseason No. 9 Nebraska Cornhuskers in honor of their Flip for the Cure breast cancer awareness and alumni night competition. The gymnasts donned "throwback" black-and-pink leotards, in the spirit of the Penn State's original colors, as well as in support of breast cancer survivors and battlers.
Coming off of a 194.275-192.900 victory over then-No. 35 Eastern Michigan to open the season, the Nittany Lions felt confident.
The Cornhuskers took on the bars to start, while the Nittany Lions set up at the vault. Penn State started off strong, with freshman Kourtney Chinnery, junior Sabrina Garcia, and senior Briannah Tsang leading the scoring to tally a 49.075 on vault for the squad--but Nebraska was a force to be reckoned with, outscoring Penn State just barely with a 49.325.
"We knew going in that we were going to have a fight," Tsang said. "It was great to see everyone hit and stick, and unfortunately we had some mistakes, but this is how we learn and move forward."
The Huskers proved to be tough competition with a clean 49.325 score on the vault, but Penn State took the cake for claiming a 49.325 on the bars when the squads swapped events. Freshman Alissa Bonsall and Tsang tied for a first place spot on the event, and the Nittany Lions were able to wrap up the rotation with a lead at 98.400-97.700.
"In regards to our all arounders, last weekend, Bri was steady, and Lauren [Bridgens] was right there with her, and tonight Alissa was fantastic on bars, and Bri was even stronger in the all around," head coach Sarah Brown said. "For our freshmen to be competing in the all-around week in and week out is tough so we need to pace them and pay close attention to how they're responding each week, but overall I'm very very proud of both of them."
The Nittany Lions took on the beam for their next rotation, where a few unfortunate falls brought the squad's scoring down. Despite a combination of 9.8000 scores from both junior Mason Hosek and Tsang's notorious skills on the beam to help Penn State's tally, the Nittany Lions fell short of the Huskers's score of 49.050.
"I think if we find a way to keep our energy up throughout the meet we could be better on the last two events," Bonsall said. "But we have a great team and great cheering so it was nice to have them along with us."
Nebraska claimed a close victory to wrap up the meet, nabbing a 195.550-195.050 win. Penn State gymnasts Bonsall, Bridgens, and Tsang managed to snag three of the five all-around titles.
"I thought tonight was a really good night for our team," Brown said. "We were definitely more confident here in Rec hall than we were last week. I thought we started the week really strong. One of the things I want to keep working on is our stamina throughout the rest of the competition."
The Nittany Lions look ahead with hope as they kick off their away season and travel to Maryland next weekend to continue competition.
"One of my favorite things to do is to break things down as soon as the meet is over, and figure out what I want to do for the next meet," Brown said. "It's going to be interesting because at Maryland we'll actually finish the competition on balance beam, which is the event that we struggled on tonight, so we're going to practice finishing the meet on balance beam instead of on floor."
The Nittany Lions will hit the road for their meet against Maryland on Friday, January 19.