Jan. 6, 2016
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By MEGAN ROWLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After kicking off the 2016 season with a third place finish at the Cancun Classic, the University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to host the Northern Illinois Huskies in its home opener on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 4 p.m. (CT).
“I am glad to have the one experience under our belt before we come home,” said UI head coach Larissa Libby. “I like to compete away first because it is rewarding to come back home. It is much easier to figure out what stresses the team when you are away.”
Opening the season on the road proved beneficial for the GymHawks, as the meet helped the newcomers adjust to the many factors and stressors of road meets.
“I think it is always helpful because it teaches them to adjust on any level,” said Libby. “Travel in the Midwest is always going to go wrong. There is always something we have to deal with and this team deals with those factors extremely well. Constant distraction and staying focused on the task at hand was a little difficult. I think the underclassmen handled themselves quite well; better than we had anticipated.
“They had a few deer in the headlight moments at first on the practice day. It was nice to have a practice day to get the jitters out. We competed in a ballroom and we never compete in a ballroom, so that in itself was interesting. By competition day, those jitters were gone. I thought they handled themselves quite well and they were probably the most prepared team we had going to Cancun on all levels.”
For eight Hawkeyes, this Saturday will be their first experience in front of the Hawkeye faithful.
“The road is fun because you are all together and you don’t have to deal with being in class and all that,” said Libby. “But being in Carver in front of friends, family, and fans is an experience that you cannot talk about. You have to be there to understand it. We have a lot of newcomers and I am excited for them to see what Hawkeye nation is all about. Some of our freshmen have grown up seeing it from one side so it will be cool for them to see it from the other side from the floor.”
While nothing compares to competing on your home floor, the GymHawks’ main focus is coming out with a win.
“With all that comes the price of not letting your fans down and that is hard,” said Libby. “We have to make sure we are focused on the right things so we have the connection with our fans but do all the right things to make sure we have a win at the end of the day.”