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GymHawks set to host Gophers this weekend

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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The jukebox is stuck playing the same old song, and the Iowa women’s gymnastics team is sick of hearing it.

This season’s theme for the GymHawks: Close, but no cigar. Iowa has been above average most meets, but the effort hasn’t been enough to win.

Head coach Larissa Libby said she has tried everything in her arsenal to motivate her squad to reach a superior performance level.

During a team meeting this week, she let the Hawkeyes figure it out for themselves.

“We’ve been concentrating on the things that I think we need to change,” Libby said. “So I said, ‘Let’s just open it up and figure out what you think we need to change.’ We really talked about trying to let the last six meets go and starting from here. This is a new day, a new season. I want to start really hard with Minnesota.”

When the Hawkeyes host the Gophers at 2 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Field House, the matchup may be one of the more even meets of the season.

The two Big Ten foes are right next to each other in national rankings, with Iowa at No. 32 and Minnesota No. 33 this week. Their overall season averages are also nearly identical; the Hawkeyes average 193.155 points per meet, and the Gophers tally 193.075 per contest.

Coming off of a home loss to Iowa State last weekend, the GymHawks desperately want to redeem themselves.

“Without being rude to Minnesota, I think we’re very similar teams right now going through inconsistencies,” Libby said. “I think that my team could easily be just as good as them. It will depend on who shows up mentally. That’s the biggest issue that I have with our team right now is getting that dig-deep competitor.”

More than midway through the season, Iowa wants to not only start winning meets but start improving its total team scores.

To qualify for the postseason, a team’s top six scores — no more than three from home meets — are taken with the highest score dropped and the remaining five averaged together.

The top 36 teams in the country advance to the postseason with no regional affiliation. Nationally, No. 1 Oklahoma averages 196.615 a meet, and No. 36 Texas Woman’s University puts up 192.210.
Libby said Iowa’s current outlook for the postseason is “pretty sketchy.”

Sophomore all-arounder Jessa Hansen said the team has a goal of putting up a score in the 195-196 range this weekend, and everyone understands the postseason pressure is starting to mount.

“Our coaches work on the schedule so that we peak later,” Hansen said. “But it’s getting to be later, so we need to start peaking and bring our scores up and start hitting as a team, like, now.”

Because of the Iowa men’s basketball game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Indiana at 5 p.m. Feb. 28, the meet will be held in the GymHawks’ practice facility in the Field House. Libby said the Hawkeyes have famously done well in that environment.

The smaller venue offers a more intimate setting for the fans, which the Hawkeyes said is always a good thing.

“We’re going to be in a tighter gym, and it’ll be easier than being spread out in Carver,” senior Jenny Donar said. “We’ll feel more at home and get the crowd involved, because they’re going to be right next to us in the bleachers. I feel like we can make it work to our benefit.”


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