What was a strong point for the women’s gymnastics team earlier in the season has turned into a weak spot. For the Owls, balance beam has turned winnable meets into close losses.
The Owls finished second to Pennsylvania, 188.3-186.725, at a home tri-meet Saturday. Ursinus finished third.
“We threw it away on balance beam,” coach Ken Anderson said. “We were more consistent on beam in the beginning of the year, but we’ve had a rough time on it the last two meets.”
The Owls’ struggles on beam cost them in a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 26. It again played a pivotal role in the final outcome Saturday, and the reasons for the difficulty were mixed.
“It comes down to consistency and confidence,” senior Alexis Zafferes said. “The talent is definitely there.”
Assistant coach Aaron Murphy said the gymnast who leads off on beam shapes the team’s mindset for the entire event.
“They look to that first person to set the pace,” Murphy said. “One of our freshmen led off today and fell apart. When [the other gymnasts] see that first girl fall apart, it’s like a domino effect. Instead of being calm and relaxed, they begin to question themselves.”
Anderson said he did not believe the struggles were mental.
“We were a little off today. It surprised me, but it’s something we are very capable of straightening out,” he said.
Quakers coach Tom Kovic said it was “an honor” to beat Temple.
“Temple-Penn has historically been a tremendous rivalry,” Kovic said. “Kudos to the Temple girls; they are a great team.”
Kovic said Penn’s key to victory was the uneven bars, though the Owls won the event. Five of the six Owls had scores of 9.0 or better on the event. Only Zafferes, who fell off the bar early in her routine, finished lower.
“It was a new routine, and I’ll get it down by the next meet,” Zafferes said.
Sophomore Sarah Liebowitz won the event with a score of 9.775.
“I was cleaner on my skills and cleaner than in our last home meet, but I still could have stuck the landing,” Liebowitz said.
Murphy, who handles the bar instruction, pushed his team much harder in the week leading up to the meet after what he called a disappointing performance on bars versus Rutgers.
“I tried to get them to be more consistent in the gym,” Murphy said. “If it’s consistent [in the gym], you can go to any meet, pretend it’s practice, and hit your routine.”
The Owls led at the meet’s halfway point before the beam did them in. Murphy said he wasn’t sure if the excitement surrounding the Super Bowl gave the gymnasts any of their early energy, but had no problem if it did. If only they had been able to maintain that energy throughout the meet.
“More power to them,” Murphy said. “Whatever it takes to hit your routine.”
Dan Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.