Coming into the season, the Penn State women's gymnastics team appeared primed for a run at its first national championship since 1980.
Though the Nittany Lions didn't suffer any serious setbacks to their ultimate goal on Friday, the 2010 season got off to a shaky start.
The No. 11 Lions finished second in their season-opening quad meet at No. 24 Michigan State, finishing with a score of 193.900. Michigan State edged the Lions with a total score of 193.925. West Virginia (191.225) and Western Michigan (189.525) rounded out the scoring.
An uncharacteristically high number of falls plagued the Lions, beginning on the uneven bars with Rosie Smith, who was competing in her first meet since injuring her left foot Feb. 21. The mistakes started to mount as the Lions began their beam routines and finished the event with a team score of 47.950, their lowest score among the four events.
It seemed like the Lions had gotten over some of the first-meet nerves when they reached the floor exercises after sophomore Daryl Konsevick scored a 9.875 and Madison Merriam posted a 9.825, both personal bests. Falls by freshman Sharaya Musser and senior Casey Rohrbaugh followed, however, haulting the Lions' momentum.
"I think we made a lot of mistakes, but it's only the first meet," coach Steve Shephard said. "I was not totally disappointed, but I wasn't pleased that we missed six routines. I can't feel too excited about that."
Senior Brandi Personett provided much of the evening's highlights for Penn State, earning first place in the all-around with a 39.225. Personett also finished first in the vault (9.900), floor exercise (9.900) and balance beam (9.850).
"I started shaky on bars," Personett said. "It's the first meet, so, from the freshmen to the seniors, everyone gets the nerves."
Senior Alexandra Brockway, who began practicing just before the New Year after spraining her ankle in November, and sophomore Natalie Ettl tied for second place on bars, posting a 9.800. Musser and sophomore Whitney Bencsko each recorded a 9.825 on vault, good for second.
Overall, however, the Lions do not seemed overly concerned with their start to the season. Senior Allie Southard knows the talent is there but said the team needs to find better ways of dealing with its nerves.
"We were disappointed we let our nerves get to us, but there is so much potential," Southard said. "We had all these falls, but our scores weren't terrible. We just need to think about what we've been doing all preseason."
Though he was unhappy with his team's performance, Shephard is still confident.
"We still went 193.900," Shephard said, "and we have huge room for improvement."