Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
No. 12 Nebraska won three event titles and the all-around to pull the upset
In a battle of the Big Ten’s best, the Nebraska women’s gymnastics team went ahead early and never looked back in knocking off No. 8 Michigan on Saturday afternoon.
Sienna Crouse got the Huskers started with a career-high 9.975 on vault to get NU out to a lead after one rotation. Senior Abbie Epperson snagged the bars title in the next rotation to help Nebraska triple its lead, and the Huskers came up with clutch performances down the stretch to hold off any hope of a Michigan comeback.
After splitting the regular season conference title in 2017, NU coach Dan Kendig said the matchup with Michigan would determine who was in the “driver’s seat” for this year’s conference crown. Kendig echoed the same sentiment following Nebraska’s win, and was proud of how his team handled adversity.
“Part of me feels like I’m too old for this, but boy does it sure make you feel younger,” Kendig said. “They’re our archrival, there’s no getting around it… but we’re not out of the woods for our conference yet.”
Crouse kept her hot streak rolling with the impressive effort to win the vault title, which came after she was named Big Ten Event Specialist of the Week for her against Rutgers last weekend. The 9.975 makes Crouse just one of two gymnasts to hit that score so far this season, tied with Maggie Nichols of Oklahoma, and is second only to a perfect ‘10’ from Florida’s Alex McMurty.
Epperson added a 9.875, and Megan Schweihofer went for a 9.85 to lead Nebraska’s 49.275 on the opening event.
Although bars was the Huskers worst event on the night, a 9.90 by Epperson allowed Nebraska to gain on Michigan with the Wolverines going for 48.875 in its rotation on vault. Epperson added a second event title in two rotations for NU, and gave the senior a .05 lead in the all-around competition over Michigan’s Paige Zaziski.
Megan Schweihofer made it 3-for-3, and hit 9.90 on beam to give Nebraska another event title in the third rotation. Grace Williams was right on her heels with a 9.875, and freshman Kynsee Roby led a trio of Huskers with a 9.85 to notch a 49.325 for NU on the beam.
That left Nebraska ahead by the same .300 margin it entered the rotation with, and helped the Huskers offset an impressive effort by Michigan on floor, which was highlighted by a 9.95 for Emma McLean.
For the first time in four rotations, Nebraska did not win the event title on floor. It still didn’t stop the Huskers from adding to its winning margin.
Epperson went for a 9.85 to open the Husker rotation, but the highlight of the rotation came from Nebraska’s most unlikely source. Catelyn Orel, who missed last season due to injury, made her debut on floor due to an injury in NU’s lineup. That didn’t stop Orel from hitting a 9.875, and bringing Devaney to life with the Huskers on the verge of pulling the upset.
With the 9.85 on floor, Epperson held on to edge Zaziski in the all-around behind a career-high 39.450. Zaziski’s floor routine cut the margin to .025 heading into the final rotation, before Epperson’s mark secured the all-around crown for the Nebraska senior.
Next for Nebraska is the third meet of a Big Ten homestand, when Minnesota comes to Devaney next Saturday for a 7 p.m. meet.