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GymHawks narrowly fall to No. 10 Penn State

BY ALEX FRENCH | FEBRUARY 06, 2012 7:20 AM

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Iowa women's gymnastics head coach Larissa Libby said it was hard to be disappointed after the team's Feb. 3 meet against No. 10 Penn State.

The Hawkeyes posted a season-high overall score of 195.15, but the Nittany Lions scored 195.8.

"The opportunity was there to take down an incredible team in Penn State, which we knew was there — and we blew it," she said. "We had a 195.1 with a point [reduction] in falls. That's a great team."

The Hawkeyes led the Nittany Lions, 97.825-97.375, after the first two events thanks to a season-high team score of 49.175 on the uneven bars.

But Iowa's third event of the evening, the balance beam, scored the lowest for the second week in a row. Aberrant falls by Annie Szatkowski and Sydney Hoerr saw the GymHawks' score dip to 47.975, its second-lowest tally on beam for the season.

"We replaced two people [Jessica Morreale, who's out for the season with a knee injury, and Emily Bigras] on beam this week," Libby said. "Kaitlynn [Urano] did a fantastic job starting, but we still need five people to stay up. We have to go back in the gym and find those five people, whoever they are, who are going to make the difference."

The GymHawks couldn't quite make up the scoring differential going into the final rotation, trailing 146.525-145.8, but a season-high 49.35 on the floor exercise brought Iowa to within 0.65 of a point from victory.

Senior Jessa Hansen and junior Emma Stevenson both posted season-highs of 9.90s, which were good enough for a three-way tie with Penn State's Sharaya Musser for first place in the event.

Iowa senior Jordan Eszlinger took first in the uneven bars with a 9.875, a career best.

"The other events are coming along, and I think [the Hawkeyes] can compete with anybody in the conference on the other events," Libby said. "It's going to take one more kid to stay up on beam, and this team is going to be unstoppable."

Hansen tied for second on bars and third on beam with a 9.85 in each event, and said she's happy with how the team finished.

"It really is progress; [the score is] our season high. We scored so well, but we have to fix our beam," she said. "If we want to contend for a [Big Ten] championship, we have to fix beam."

While Hansen said finding consistency will be the solution to the team's beam woes, Stevenson, whose 9.8 earned second on the vault, thinks it's just a matter of finding the right personnel.

"We just need to find that magic lineup. Everyone who's on beam lineup is capable of 9.8 plus every time," Stevenson said. "We have to find the order that works."


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