Ball State gymnastics suffered its third loss of the season against the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats Sunday, 195.300-194.025.
Head coach Joanna Saleem said the close scores throughout the meet showed that the Cardinals can hang with some of the top teams in the NCAA.
“I’m proud of the team, they stayed in it till the very end and did not give up at any point,” Saleem said. "It’s nice to see that competitive spirit stays strong throughout the entire team.”
This focus throughout the entire meet could be seen as the Cardinals were not distracted by the star power of the Wildcat line-up.
“We need to stay focused on our team,” junior Baylee Bell said. “If we focus on one routine at a time, we’ll be OK.”
While wins have an importance to the team, their main focus throughout the entire season had been to keep a consistent regional qualifying score. While their average of 194.250 dropped a bit to 194.194, the team still remains in the hunt for a regional qualifying spot. As of now, they sit in 34th place nationally.
“In some ways, wins are secondary,” Saleem said. “We want to win, but it is important for us to maintain those scores to qualify for regionals. We want to be able to do both, but when you’re going up against the No. 6 team in the country, we want to focus on what are scores are going to be.”
The Cardinals have found a lot a recent strength in the vault event, but against Kentucky, the floor was the team’s strength as they scored the highest out of the four events with a score of 49.100, and sophomore Kaitlyn Menzione won the event with a career-high of 9.900.
“I’ve really taken it slow, worked the basics and eventually it just came to me,” Menzione said. “Last year I nailed the double pike move and this year I came back with vengeance in a way, to have that big skill in my routine. From there I just kept on practicing and I got it.”
Ball State's overall average dropped, but Saleem doubled down on the team's mantra of focusing on themselves.
“The biggest thing we have to remember is that we can’t control the judges,” Saleem said. “We have to go back in the gym and look at where were some of the mistakes and how do we fix that. We need to go [with] a focus on our mistakes so that next week we have the best performances we can put out there.”
Ball State's next meet is Sunday, Feb. 5 in Washington, D.C., against George Washington and New Hampshire.