BY: MADISON PETERSEN
DEKALB, Illinois – With the annual Black and Gold Intrasquad behind them, the No. 22 ranked University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team is set for their season opener season on the road against Northern Illinois, Lindenwood, and Western Michigan in Dekalb, Illinois, on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (CT).
“I am hoping for consistency in performance on Sunday,” said UI head coach Larissa Libby. “I told my team I would like to see them in a 195-196 range as far as the score goes. I want to see the same level of performance that I see in the gym during practice.
“We just ran another intrasquad competition in practice and every girl on the beam team had a performance of 9.85 or above. There was not one of eight kids that had an unstuck dismount or wobble. I want that level of comfort to present itself on the competition floor, so that I know that is our base and we are going up from there.”
The annual Black & Gold Intrasquad has helped the team prepare mentally for the competition scene.
“We tried to make sure to the best of our ability that the environment of the Black and Gold Intrasquad would match what is coming at Northern Illinois with the stress of competition, and have tried to point out every scenario that will happen,” said Libby.
“In gymnastics there is no offense or defense or anything that you can prepare for except making sure that mentally your team is ready to go. I do think the intrasquads have helped, because some of them have shown a tremendous growth in how they present themselves with each intrasquad. I think it’s done the job as far as nervousness goes.”
With their mentality improved, the team has continued to improve in and grow in the month since the annual Black and Gold Intrasquad.
“I think they’re a better team now,” said Libby. “They understand that if they stray, we are less likely to be successful. They know that if they control their environment, they are more successful.
” You have to be willing to sacrifice ‘me’ for ‘we’ if you want to be great. That’s probably the biggest change that they’ve had in the last month. They’ve always been like that, but when you add five new people in, it changes things. I think that always provides a rattle at first, and why they were great together at the Black and Gold Intrasquad. They were great – not amazing. I think the big picture is there now, and they get it – now they’re amazing.””
The 2017 squad consists of fifteen returnees, including All-American Mollie Drenth and NCAA Regional All-Championship team honoree Angel Metcalf. Five newcomers – freshmen Charlotte Sullivan, Clair Kaji, Bre Fitzke, Gina Leal, and Annie Kustoff — also add to the roster.
“This is our first time out for a lot of the team,” said Libby. “I’ll give my team credit – it’s been difficult to figure out which fifteen to take, which is a good thing.”
Of the freshmen, Sullivan and Kaji will compete at Northern Illinois on Sunday. Junior Jori Robertson and sophomore Sydney Hogan will also make their first career appearances, coming off of practice injuries from the previous season.
“I think people will be really impressed by what the new competitors and what the team brings to the table,” said Libby.
Fans can follow the GymHawks as they take on Northern Illinois through live stats on hawkeyesports.com or by following Iowa gymnastics on Twitter at @IowaGymnastics or on Facebook at facebook.com/iowagymnastics.