After closely trailing the Pioneers throughout the competition, the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team fell short against Denver in the third rotation on balance beam when junior Stefanie Merkle was the first of three girls to fall during their routines.
OSU pulled a season-low of 47.850 for the event, setting the team back going into the fourth rotation on floor, and resulting in a 196.900-195.225 loss.
“I felt like vault and bars were pretty good, and we had some momentum going into beam,” OSU coach Carey Fagan said. “Then when Stefanie fell, I think it kind of shook everyone’s confidence. We can’t let that happen.”
In the first rotation on vault, the Buckeyes pulled consistent scores at or above 9.800, and Merkle led the team with a score of 9.850 to tie her career-high.
Denver was in the lead with their performances on uneven bars after the first rotation and a score of 49.275, while OSU posted a 49.100 on vault.
On uneven bars in the second rotation, sophomore Kaitlyn Hofland scored 9.875 for OSU’s team-high, while senior Tenille Funches and junior Alexis Mattern nearly matched with 9.850.
At the midpoint, the Buckeyes trailed the Pioneers with scores 98.375-98.250.
Balance beam was the OSU’s weak point for the night. Merkle was first in the lineup for the Buckeyes and fell once during her performance.
“Sometimes you get that snowball effect where the first person that falls shakes up the lineup a little bit and they lose confidence,” Fagan said.
In addition to Hofland also falling once during her routine, Mattern fell twice to earn the team low of 8.550.
“I think today, going into beam, I had a pretty good mindset, but I started and something wasn’t there, and I let my mind go,” Mattern said. “Unfortunately, it resulted in two falls, which is very uncharacteristic and something that my team really couldn’t afford today. So I was disappointed, and I wasn’t just disappointed in myself, I felt bad for my team. I didn’t do my job.”
In the same rotation on beam, the Buckeyes had junior Taylor Harrison at the tail end of the lineup, who finished the event strong with a score of 9.850.
OSU trailed Denver after the third event 147.600-146.100, heading into the fourth and final event on floor.
“We knew floor was an event that we can do very, very well on,” Mattern said. “We’re strong, and we looked each other in the eye and said, ‘We have nothing to lose, we have everything to gain and we have to do what we need to do.”
The Buckeyes came together in the last rotation on floor to pull the highest single event score of the night of 49.125.
“We wanted to come out strong on floor, which we did,” Merkle said. “So I was really proud at the end.”
Mattern posted a 9.900 to take the highest individual score of the meet for OSU and to take first on floor in a tie with Denver’s Nikole Addison.
Mattern also took third in the all-around with a final score of 38.125.
Even with the strong performances seen by the Buckeyes in the final event, OSU fell short against Denver with a final score of 196.900-195.225.
OSU faces a unique situation where the team will travel to Colorado next Saturday to compete in the second half of back-to-back meets against Denver.
“We are a team that thrives off of adversity, so when things get a little tough, I think we bounce back quickly.” Mattern said. “We don’t go in with our tails between our legs. We go in standing tall. And (at Denver) we’re going to walk in, just as confident and ready to go as we did today. And we’ll have a different outcome, because we are not going to accept anything less.”