No. 19 Iowa Looks for a 'Great' Saturday

April 1, 2016


IOWA CITY, Iowa — The field is set, balloons inflated, banners hung, and Carver-Hawkeye Arena is in immaculate shape to host NCAA Regional women’s gymnastics.

Now it’s up to 19th ranked University of Iowa to be mindful of head coach Larissa Libby’s desire to control attitude, effort, and staying within its own environment.

“We’re going to have to be consistent,” Libby said. “What it is going to take is 24 for 24 which are six routines on all four events that are hit and we are capable of making that mark.

“We have a threshold we have yet to meet; if there is a time it is going to happen it is going to be (Saturday). If we do what we do in practice there is a good shot we will make it through, but we can’t control what happens with everybody else.”

Joining the Hawkeyes’ postseason gala are No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 12 Nebraska, No. 13 Arkansas, Kent State, and Central Michigan, as well as individuals from Ball State, Centenary, and Western Michigan.

Iowa has been idle from competition since sharing fifth place at the Big Ten Championships 14 days ago with a score of 195.875. The Hawkeyes have posted a score of 196.650 twice this season — Feb. 6 at home in a win against Nebraska and March 12 at the Big Five Meet in University Park, Pennsylvania. Libby expects it will take at least that high of a score to advance to the NCAA Championships from April 15-17 in Fort Worth, Texas.

“The very lowest score that will probably qualify is 196,” Libby said. “We have had a 196.65 a couple times this year, so we are capable of making that mark.”

As for the layoff, Libby said her team learned from the 2015 postseason when a score of 196.500 on March 21 at Big Tens was followed by 194.475 two weeks later at regionals. The practice plan this season didn’t include as much of a physical or mental break.

“We’re going to have to be consistent. What it is going to take is 24 for 24 which are six routines on all four events that are hit and we are capable of making that mark.”
Larissa Libby
UI head coach

“Last year I felt heading into our regional we rested too much and turned our brains off a little too soon,” Libby said. “(This season) we tried to stay with our system, the same system we used all year.”

For UI junior Angel Metcalf, the arrival of regionals corresponds with a sense of relief.

“There is always a feeling of relief knowing your competition is the next day and that is why we are all so excited,” said Metcalf, who ranks 32nd nationally in all-around. “We love to go out and compete and show what we can do.”

The Hawkeyes have been on a mission since their season opener Jan. 2 in Cancun, Mexico, according to UI junior Mollie Drenth. That mission includes hitting all the little details her head coach referenced when talking about “24 for 24.”

“This is what we have been working on all season,” said Drenth, who ranks 22nd nationally in all-around. “We’re taking it step-by-step, so this is nothing different than what we have been working on all season. Now we have to put it all together (Saturday).”

Iowa has reached a top 20 ranking for the first time in five seasons. The top two teams and the two all-arounds (who are not on an advancing team) receive automatic berths to the NCAA Championships.

“April 2 is a hard day,” Libby said. “It could be the greatest day of our lives and it could be the worst moment we have ever had. That’s the same with any sport. That is the hardest thing about coaching an amazing team; they deserve so much, but there is nothing we can do but good gymnastics.”

Action begins at 4 p.m. (CT).