Women's gymnastics to face Penn State


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The Iowa women's gymnastics team's season thus far has been like a routine on the uneven bars: Up, down, and all around.

The Hawkeyes were up when they tied then-No. 15 Illinois, 195.075-195.075, at home on Jan. 21, their highest score of the season. They were all-around when they faced in-state rival Iowa State on Jan. 27 in Ames, starting strong in the first three events before two falls on the balance beam saw their event score fall to 48.125 — their second-lowest of the year.

And they were down when freshman Jessica Morreale, who won the beam against Iowa State with a 9.85, was lost for the season on Sunday with a knee injury suffered in practice.

Head coach Larissa Libby pointed out the importance of team cohesion on Thursday after practice.

"It just hurts the stability; you never want to be bumping people in and out all the time, so we'll be changing the lineup quite significantly," she said. "You don't want to be doing that at this point of the season. Just consistency-wise, you don't want to be doing that."

Even though the news comes at a bad time during the season, the eighth-year coach said the next person to step into the lineup on any given day is just as good. Now, all it comes down to mental toughness, she said.

"It's just a mental thing. For us, nothing changes; injuries happen all the time," she said. "How you deal with them is what decides how good you are."

Although the GymHawks (1-1-1, 1-0-1 Big Ten) remain undefeated in the Big Ten, their scores also follow the up-and-down trend. Iowa has posted 193.225, 195.075, and 194.550 so far this season.

The latest score, in a loss to in-state rival Iowa State on Jan. 27, included mistakes during each event, Libby said. There's much to be learned from the experience, she believes.

"Every time we made a mistake, we could recover — and then we would make another mistake. We made them in bad spots," Libby said. "Our potential for growth and to get better is quite a bit better than a lot of teams'. But because of that, we'll also be inconsistent."

Iowa sports six freshmen on its roster, tied with Illinois for the most in the Big Ten.

One of those freshmen, Emily Bigras, said she's focusing on what she needs to do individually in order to help the team avoid ups and downs during meets.

"I'm just trying to get everything consistent. I'm not worrying about anything, just doing what I have to do," said the native of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. "To stay consistent, I mostly just concentrate on doing the right things the whole time. Don't doubt yourself."

Senior all-around competitor Annie Szatkowski said the team must improve minor details in order to beat a squad such as No. 10 Penn State, the GymHawks' competition Friday evening.

"Based on this week's practice, I think we're going to make those improvements we set out to do," she said. "Mentally, we're tougher than we were last week. We just have to focus on those details and on not give anything away, because that's what we did last weekend."

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