Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Late rally starts NU’s season with a win on the road
The No. 9 Nebraska women’s gymnastics team (1-0) started off the 2017-18 season with a 195.550-195.050 win against No. 17 Penn State (1-1) in Happy Valley on Saturday afternoon.
The Huskers looked to seniors Abbie Epperson and Grace Williams, and juniors Megan Schweihofer and Sienna Crouse to help the Huskers pull past the Nittany Lions in the team’s first Big Ten matchup of the season.
Nebraska won the meet, and the event title, on beam, with Williams taking the crown thanks to a 9.925. Schweihofer and freshman Kynsee Roby tied for second place, each earning a 9.825 score in the event. The Huskers ended the rotation with a 49.050 mark ahead of Penn State’s 48.100 earned on the same skill.
The strong showing on beam allowed Nebraska to narrowly edge the Nittany Lions after trailing coming into the final event.
Penn State senior Briannah Tsang earned the all-around crown with a 39.425 mark for her efforts, including top scores in both floor exercise (9.900) and parallel bars (9.900). Tsang is 2-0 in the all-around event this season, tying teammate Lauren Bridgens with a 39.050.
Nebraska’s Schweihofer took second place in the all-around competition by recording a career high 39.375 and, topping her previous score of 39.125 earned last season against Rutgers.
She was joined in the top three by Epperson who posted a 39.175, the best score of her collegiate career. Epperson competed with Maryland for two seasons before transferring to Nebraska. Her best score in that time was a 38.975 mark against Minnesota.
The Huskers started the day on the uneven parallel bars before moving to vault, floor exercise and finishing on beam.
The team’s highest marks came on its second event and was led by the efforts of Crouse and Schweihofer. Crouse earned the vault title, and a career high, with a 9.950 score, followed by Schweihofer with a 9.900 and Epperson with a 9.875. The Huskers finished the event with a 49.325, a jump from last season’s average of 49.185 in the event.
Nebraska faced a few obstacles on parallel bars, including senior Danielle Breen’s slip from the bars early in her routine. Sophomore Taylor Houchin gave Nebraska top marks on beam with a 9.875, followed by Roby with a 9.850.
Redshirt sophomore Catelyn Orel made her return to competition after suffering a season-ending achilles injury before the start of last season. Orel posted a 9.025 on the bars to contribute to the team’s 48.375 total.
Schweihofer again led the Huskers in floor exercise with a 9.825 mark just behind Penn State’s Tsang. Nittany Lion Sabrina Garcia tied for second, followed by NU’s Williams (9.775) and Epperson and Hassel (9.750) to round out the top five in the event. Nebraska finished floor exercise with a 48.800, ahead of PSU’s 48.550 and below last season’s 49.300 average.
Saturday was also the first meeting between NU coach Dan Kendig and PSU coach Sarah Brown. Brown is the eighth coach in program history and follows Jeff Thompson, who was terminated from his position early last year following complaints regarding his treatment of athletes in the program. Assistants Kera Molinaro and Josh Nilson served as interim coaches for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.
Brown was named to lead the program in May 2017 after finishing up a season of leading the Eastern Michigan University Women’s gymnastics program to the Mid-American Conference regular season title, the MAC Championship and an appearance at the NCAA Regionals. The Eagles finished the season with a No. 27 national ranking.
As a collegiate athlete, Brown competed for one season at the University of Utah before completing her career at the University of Missouri where she earned multiple All-American awards.
The Huskers will return home on January 20th to host Rutgers, followed by back-to-back Big Ten home meets against Michigan (Jan. 27) and Minnesota (Feb. 3). Nebraska will host Pittsburgh on February 24 and wrap up meetings at the Devaney Center with the annual Master’s Classic on March 4.