Although the women’s gymnastics team finished last out of four teams in the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Semifinals, there was a glaring reason for that – Temple scored a 45.750 on the floor exercise, by far its worst event of the day.
Jean Alban led off the event for Temple, but during her routine, she suffered an injury to her ACL. Coach Aaron Murphy said that blow could have played a part in the other low scores.
“I think [Alban’s] injury played a heavy part in people’s hearts,” Murphy said. “That’s your teammate, that’s like your sister getting hurt…I don’t know if that played a part…but that part of the meet was definitely a rough spot.”
On the flip side, Temple set a new all-time scoring record on the vault with a 48.650. Each of the six gymnasts competing scored at least a 9.600, with Lauren Capone leading the way with a 9.800.
“Sylvie Borschel went out there and stuck her vault,” Murphy said. “And that just had a very positive domino effect, where everyone else just had that energy. We just had stick after stick after stick [landings], so it was really incredible to just see the girls lead off the meet that way.”
In the other two events, Temple scored a 48.500 on the uneven bars and a 47.850 on the balance beam, adding up to a total team score of 190.750. It was more than three points behind third place, which went to host Brown University (193.775). Texas’ women’s team won the semifinal with a tally of 195.375.
Briana Odom was the highlight for Temple in the team competition, as her all-around score of 38.500 was a new career high and good enough to medal as she finished seventh overall.
Murphy said he has been pleasantly surprised by the success Odom has seen as a freshman.
“It’s definitely an eye-opener…It’s a rarity to see a freshman stand up to that type of role,” Murphy said. “She scored a 38.450 at the ECACs, which was a season-high, and this week she scores a 38.500…That’s what we ask of these girls, to come in here and better yourself by a little bit. Because if you do that, and the rest of your teammates do that, it definitely helps the team total.
Two individuals from Temple qualified for the individual event finals on Sunday. Lauren Capone competed on the vault, and Reagan Oliveri competed on the balance beam.
Capone couldn’t make the podium, scoring a 9.325, the average of two individual vault scores. She missed the landing on her first attempt, but Murphy said he was pleased about how she adjusted from that first vault to her second.
“I walked down the runway with her and said, ‘Hey, you doing OK?’” Murphy said. “She said, ‘Yeah, Yeah.’ I go, ‘What’s wrong?’ She says, ‘Boy I was nervous.’ I reply, ‘Well, that’s fine, you got the nerves out of the way. Unfortunately you fell on your butt. Now the second one, let’s nail this. Go up there and vault like you know how.’ And she did. I wish she would’ve performed as equally or better with that first one, but it was good.”
Oliveri’s performance was arguably the highlight of the entire weekend for Temple. Her score of 9.800 on the balance beam put her in second place overall, behind only Maria Hundley of Seattle Pacific, who scored a 9.850 in the last routine on the apparatus.
“[Reagan] was on today,” Murphy said. “It was all together for her…so we were just really excited.”
Oliveri’s performance concluded Temple’s season on a high note. During the course of the year, Murphy said he was happy with his team’s steady improvement across the board.
“Every gymnast is going to have inconsistencies throughout the season,” Murphy said. “Whether it’s a mental block or fear sets in all of a sudden. We overcame a lot of those obstacles as individuals…From meet to meet, we emphasized that they got to get a little better each time, and our girls did it. And they proved it to themselves.”
But Murphy said he does think his team can make even more progress next season.
“Not competing the second day, that really allowed us as a team and a coaching staff to evaluate why those teams were in there and we weren’t,” Murphy said. “From a coach’s standpoint, we think we have to polish up a little bit, and one thing we noticed that other teams were doing in team finals was sticking tons of landings…So just looking to polish up, upgrade our vaults a little bit, and that should put us in contention with anyone.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.