Brandi Personett had a simple but to the point preseason message for the perennial Big Ten champions from up north: "We're gonna put Michigan in their place."
"Michigan, by far, I would say is our biggest rival out of all the teams we compete against," Personett said.
This weekend, Personett and the No. 17 Penn State women's gymnastics team get their first of two cracks at No. 12 Michigan in a quad meet with Bridgeport and Maryland at 2 p.m. Sunday in Rec Hall.
It hasn't been much of a rivalry as of late between the two teams, though. The Nittany Lions have lost seven of the last nine regular-season meetings against the Wolverines. It's been even worse for the Lions in the postseason, as they have never won a Big Ten title. In fact, the Lions have only finished ahead of the 17-time Big Ten champion Wolverines once.
That was supposed to change this season, however. The league's coaches picked the Lions to win their first conference championship in the preseason poll. The Wolverines were picked third.
Since that December poll, the Lions and Wolverines have flip-flopped positions. The Lions rank third among Big Ten teams; the Wolverines are ranked first.
It was just last week the Lions were tops in the Big Ten, but a 193.850 -- their worst score in over a year -- dropped the Lions behind the Wolverines and Illinois. Coupled with the season-ending injury to sophomore All-American Whitney Bencsko, and the Lions are on shaky ground with the Big Ten championships later this month.
A win against their biggest rival, though, would make things a little cheerier in Happy Valley.
"It would just be a huge confidence builder for us, just that we can prove to ourselves we can beat Michigan," said Sharaya Musser, who is getting her first taste of the rivalry. "Even without Whitney, I still think that we can beat Michigan."
Unlike the freshman Musser, the Penn State seniors were a part of the last team to defeat the Wolverines, as freshmen in 2007. The Lions won 195.900-195.525, and it came on the Wolverines' turf in Ann Arbor.
Senior Casey Rohrbaugh remembers that meet vividly, calling it one of the five greatest moments of her career. More than the meet, however, she remembered the way she was treated by the Wolverine faithful.
Rohrbaugh said a number of the fans verbally attacked the Lions during the meet and as they left the arena. For Rohrbaugh, though, it just made the victory that much sweeter.
"They were yelling at us during the meet," she said, "and we kind of just walked out like 'Ha!' with our heads held high.
"We're gonna use that as motivation to kick their ass [on Sunday]."
But the last time the Lions beat the Wolverines in Rec Hall, Rohrbaugh wasn't even born. It's been more than two decades since the Lions defended home turf against their heated rival, that last home win coming in 1988.
"That shouldn't be," Rohrbaugh said.
So for Rohrbaugh and the rest of the seniors, they would like nothing more than to begin and end their career with a victory against the Wolverines.
"Beating Michigan at the start and finish," Rohrbaugh said. "That would be perfectly fine with me."