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Women’s Gymnastics: Ohio State hosts Minnesota and Illinois State in home-opener

Nicole Jontony competes on the balance beam for Ohio State gymnastics. Credit: Courtesy of Nicole Jontony

The Ohio State women’s gymnastics team (0-3, 0-2 Big Ten) will return home after three straight road meets to begin the year for its first tri-meet of the season against Minnesota (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten) and Illinois State (1-2) Saturday at St. John Arena.

“We’re really excited to be home for once, and really show the crowd and our fans like what we’ve worked throughout the whole preseason for,” senior Stefanie Merkle said. “Being a home meet, we’ve been on this equipment before, so you don’t have to adjust to it. That’s one good thing. I think the home schedule of vault, bars, beam, floor, is always a nice rotation to go to.”

The Buckeyes have seen the same challenging away rotation of events for the last three meets, starting the competition on uneven parallel bars and ending with balance beams. The change of pace of beginning on vault and ending on floor exercise might come to an advantage for the team this weekend at home.

Ohio State might benefit from the return of senior Kaitlyn Hofland, who has been out of competitions to begin the season while she recovers from shoulder surgery. Head coach Meredith Paulicivic said she hopes to have her senior “back on bars” this weekend.

Hofland earned a career-best score of 9.925 on uneven parallel bars on Feb. 11, 2017, against Penn State.

Though it has not won yet this season, Ohio State has seen steady improvement from each competition, increasing its final scores by an average of 1.05 points per meet. Finishing its last competition against Iowa with a final tally of 195.300, its highest score of the season, Ohio State hopes to reach the 196 points this weekend.

“I think right now, we’re starting to get a little more comfortable,” Paulicivic said. “We don’t look so nervous in a meet, which is great. Now it’s the details, getting after the handstands, getting after the sticks, the splits, all the little half-tenthers.”

The team practices this week were aimed to focus on improving details in every routine. Being three meets deep in the season, and as the newcomers have gained experience, the standards for the team are rising.

“I feel like with three meets under our belt, yeah, we’re definitely hitting our groove,” Paulicivic said. “For this team, every meet that we have, everything that they do in front of a judge and in an arena, I feel like they’re going to learn something from it and get better and better.”

Ohio State’s home-opener against Minnesota and Illinois State begins at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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