Similar to the women’s side, the season is winding down for the men’s gymnastics team. Their likely-to-be last Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship meet lies just two weeks ahead.
And like women’s coach Aaron Murphy, men’s coach Fred Turoff is trying to prepare for the most important weekend of the season.
“The interesting thing with this meet [on Sunday against William and Mary and Army] was it let me try and put some guys in that weren’t in yesterday,” Turoff said. “So it’s helped me decide who to put in next weekend and then the following weekend in the conference championship.”
The Owls struggled relative to the teams they faced over the weekend, placing last in both Saturday and Sunday’s meets.
On Saturday, Temple fell to Navy by a score of 411.40 to 401.40. The Owls really struggled on the pommel horse, where they tallied a 62.75. Navy nearly outscored Temple by six points in that event alone.
“It was terrible, Turoff said. “One thing is that when they fall and try to get back and stay on. Staying on is an important thing to learn. But even when they didn’t fall, they were still breaking form. Of course, if you do that a few times, it adds up.”
According to Turoff, Temple didn’t get off to a good start in their first two events, as their floor score would indicate. Four falls on this event cost his team four points, leaving them with a 66.10. Again, Navy outscored the Owls by over four points in this particular area.
Temple did beat Navy on the rings by a score of 68.85 to 68.50. Evan Eigner continued his solid performance in that event by scoring a 15, just below his season high of 15.05 at the Navy Open on Jan. 25.
The Owls also beat Navy in the high bar by a score of 66.40 to 64.70. All-arounder Jon Rydzefski led the way for Temple with a 14.15, which also stood as a season high—until Sunday’s meet when he earned a 14.20 in the same event.
Turoff said that Temple’s success in their last four events would’ve been key if not for the horrible start on the floor and pommel horse.
“We started by maybe losing 10 points in the first two round,” Turoff said. “The rest of the meet they only beat us by one point.”
Moving ahead to Sunday’s meet at William and Mary, Temple finished with a score of 401.50. The hosts won by a considerable margin, posting a score of 427.200. Army came in second with a score of 406.900.
According to Turoff, William and Mary is the clear favorite in the conference tournament in a couple of meets.
“I think they’re the strongest team in the conference,” Turoff said. “I think there’s going to be a good fight for second place between Army and Navy, and then a good fight for fourth place between us, Illinois at Chicago and Springfield.”
“I can’t see us making the big changes to climb up and compete against Army and Navy,” Turoff added. “But stranger things have happened.”
Amidst all of the struggles, one area that was consistent for the Owls all weekend was on the vault. It was their best event on Sunday as they scored a 69.700.
“We actually had very few sticks all meet long, but they were cleaner in the air,” Turoff said. “We only had one missed vault, so that was nice.”
One area that hurt Temple on Sunday was the parallel bars. Their team score of 65.500 was over two points lower than their effort on Saturday in Annapolis.
“The problem there was dismounts,” Turoff said. “We had a couple of missed dismounts and they fell. It’s just not being quite strong enough. Now maybe the second day was a little tough on them. But in this point in the season, you would look for them to be in better shape.”
“The important thing here is,” Turoff added, “If you can’t perform two days in a row, how are you going to compete in the final of the conference championship?”
Looking ahead, Temple heads to Columbus next weekend to take on Ohio State and Oklahoma. Turoff’s instructions for the last meet before conference championships is simple.
“The important thing for us is to perform cleaner, get rid of some of the execution deductions we’re having,” Turoff said. “We’re not going to match the other teams with start values. So we always say if we can match them on execution, then it’s a successful meet. And obviously getting rid of falls makes a huge difference in the execution score.”
Either way, Temple has its hands full as Oklahoma and Ohio State are ranked first and fourth in the nation, respectively.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.