The women’s gymnastics team was optimistic despite finishing third out of five teams at the Towson Invitational on Saturday, proving that sports is often more mental than physical.
The Owls finished with a score of 188.025, two spots behind the host Tigers. But the Owls’ focus after the meet was on their much-improved performance on balance beam.
“[The improvement] was definitely a good thing for us,” co-captain Lindsey Stern said. “We had given away previous meets on beam, and I’m very happy with our performance.”
Senior Alexis Zafferes agreed.
“Everyone stuck their beam routine,” Zafferes said. “It was our last event, and we ended on a good note.”
Most importantly, the judges also took notice.
“After the meet, the judges approached [coach] Ken [Anderson] and me and congratulated us on the team’s beam presentation,” assistant coach Aaron Murphy said. “They thought we were the best team on beam in the entire competition.”
Murphy had blamed the Owls’ previous beam struggles on a lack of self-confidence. At Saturday’s meet, he said he sensed a more positive mindset.
“The women are confident now and will be hitting their beam routines like they should,” Murphy said.
The Owls’ team score on beam was a 48.150, and every gymnast achieved a score of at least 9.00. Oddly, senior Erin Davis, the Owls’ most consistent beam performer all season, had the lowest score of the six Owl competitors. But the rest of the squad picked her up, after Davis had bailed them out many times before, her teammates said.
“There wasn’t one specific person that stood out,” junior Jennifer Blatt said. “We all came together as a team.”
Blatt in particular stepped up on beam, achieving a career-high score of 9.625.
Sickness and injury hampered the Owls, as only half the squad made the trip.
The most significant injury was to sophomore Sarah Liebowitz, who had a sore Achilles tendon. The injury occurred in practice last week while on vault, but Liebowitz was in the lineup until just before the start of the meet.
“In warm-up, she was doing a release move on bars and aggravated [the tendon],” Murphy said. “It was her decision to sit out, and it was the right decision.”
“She’s such an asset to the team, but she’ll be fine in a week,” Blatt said. “Today, we put it behind us.”
Co-captain Erika Messa had the flu and also didn’t travel with the team.
In the other events, Zafferes posted the Owls’ best finish of the tournament, scoring a 9.625 on vault.
The Owls opened the meet on floor exercise, usually a strong point. But floor was the their lowest-scoring event of the day. In the first event of a meet, Murphy said, the judges tend to grade hardest.
“However, the judges were stiffer than usual, and we weren’t getting the desired scores,” he said.
Despite losing, the Owls said their goal is simply to top their score from the previous meet, even if they don’t win. Unlike other sports, gymnastics gets ranked more heavily by total team score than by record.
Dan Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.