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GymHawks head south

BY CHARLIE GREEN | APRIL 03, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s gymnastics team is scheduled to face off with six of the country’s top 36 teams at the Auburn regional April 4 for a chance to advance to the NCAA Championships.

“Really all we need to do is what we’ve been doing all year,” junior Alie Glover said. “We’ve had a lot of consistency and that’s different for us. It’s been a great change, something we really enjoy.”

But only the top two teams from each of the six regionals move on, meaning it’s a win-or-go-home situation for the GymHawks. According to seeding, those two teams are No. 5 Alabama and No. 8 Auburn.

Iowa enters as the fourth seed, just behind No. 17 Minnesota. Both the Gophers and the Hawks will have their hands full with their powerful SEC opponents.

Alabama and Auburn are averaging more than 49.000 in all four events, while Iowa falls short on the vault and the balance beam.

The best event for the Hawks has been the floor exercise, where they are led by senior Sydney Hoerr’s average score 9.868. Sophomores Angel Metcalf and Mollie Drenth, and Glover also provide depth in the event for the Hawks, who will need to put together a complete effort.

Floor is also Alabama’s best routine at 49.389, as it is for Auburn, which averages 49.200.

“We only focus on ourselves,” Metcalf said. “The only thing we can control is our gymnastics and our atmosphere.”

Staying composed in the hostile environment has been a point of emphasis for the Hawkeyes, who are focused on zoning in on the task at hand.

“We’re in our own little bubble,” Metcalf said. “We control our atmosphere, and we worry about ourselves. We don’t worry about the scores, we don’t worry about other teams — nothing else but us. That’s what we preach every meet.”

Although she is only a sophomore, the leadership of Metcalf and others figures to be a pivotal factor in how they perform in Auburn, but stepping up on weak events is necessary.

A breakout performance on the balance beam might be the best way for the Hawks to pull off an upset. Of the six teams competing, including Maryland and George Washington, each one’s worst event is the beam.

“It’s the hardest event for every team,” head coach Larissa Libby said. “The team that wins beam is the team that’s going to go [to nationals].”

Alabama and Auburn are two of five SEC teams ranked in the top 10, and the conference is a hotbed for the sport. In addition to a riled up home crowd, the Hawks can also expect a well-represented Crimson Tide fan base.

Proximity and season rankings favor the regional’s top two seeds — that is without question.

Earlier in the season, the team took on No. 4 LSU and lost, but the GymHawks hope the experience with the SEC suits them well at Auburn.

“I think going back and having that reference point knowing this is how the SEC functions,” Libby said. “The number of people that will be there, the hype that it brings is something they’re super excited about.”


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