Jan. 15, 2015
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By MEGAN ROWLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After an unsettling loss on the road at LSU last week, the University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team has returned home with new determination.
“We came home and just tried to identify what went wrong, what goals we had going in that didn’t come to fruition, and why,” said head coach Larissa Libby. “The bottom line is, we established the fact that they were intimidated, but they don’t know why. Whether that was the ranking that preceded LSU or the size of the place, they definitely got intimidated and it threw them off.”
After the team identified the problems the encountered at LSU, they established the solutions for their return to Carver Hawkeye Arena.
“For right now they need to remain one team. That was one of the things they identified,” said Libby. “They were very scattered out there and we always say there is strength in numbers. Obviously we didn’t take our whole team so it will be different this weekend because our whole team will be there.”
“We don’t talk about winning because we can’t control that,” said Libby. “We can only control the hits, how many makes we have, but we did talk about in practice, you need to practice like you want to compete.”
Improving the quality of each athlete’s performance in practice has been a main focus for Libby and the coaching staff.
“I felt like some of the results were a direct reflection of what happens in practice. So I think it took failing for them to realize `ok maybe she’s right’,” said Libby. “I think they just needed that one time out there to get their feet wet and figure out that the competition is tough and its always going to be tough, but you are your worst enemy.”
“To their credit they have come back and they have worked really hard this week to eliminate some of the gymnastics mistakes that we made,” said Libby. “The mentality is a completely different thing. That is something that you have to work on day in and day out. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it.”
While Libby commends the GymHawks on their physicality, she has elevated and unwavering expectations for their mental strength.
“I put up something for them the other day that said, `look in the mirror, that is your competition’. The goal is to not beat ourselves, because that is what we did,” said Libby. “We already lost before we walked into the arena because they were intimidated, because they didn’t stand their ground, because they didn’t do the things that are natural to them. Everything about them went away.”
Though GymHawks are making an effort to focus on the things they can control, they still take the time to evaluate their opponents.
“They are aware. Michigan State beat us last year and then we beat Michigan State. Ball State beat us last year, which hurt,” said Libby. “They are aware of people’s rankings. But we try not to focus on them because we can’t change them. We focus on the fact that these are tough teams coming in. Ignoring the competency of your opponent is stupid.”
“I want them to make it harder for the judges to score them by not making mistakes. It is that simple,” said Libby.
Iowa hosts No. 22 Michigan State and Ball State in its home opener on Sunday. The meet is set to begin at 2 p.m. (CT) inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.