Welcoming seven freshmen to their roster, one less than last year, the gymnastics team is two meets deep in the 2013-2014 season with a record of 0-2.
The Spartans lost to Illinois at their first meet. MSU is unranked currently, but was ranked 25th last week. On Saturday, they lost to Pittsburgh by only a half-point, but had one of their key gymnasts out, junior Alina Cartwright.
But, the team is far more confident than last year.
“The confidence and believing in their gymnastics has improved so much,” head coach Kathie Klages said. “I would have changed their first performance (last year) to start the season much better.”
Although the number of freshmen is fairly similar to last year’s, the new gymnasts this year have been proving that they belong on the team.
“How much (the freshmen) contributed in stepping up whenever we needed, even when they’re not prepared, has been good,” sophomore Lisa Burt said.
Burt took first place in the all-around competition last weekend and tied for first place on beam against Pittsburgh.
Even though the Spartans missed going to NCAA Regionals as a team last year, Klages said she would not “change the game plan at all” because the team was still very well-prepared.
On the road to the Big Ten championship — in which they finished seventh last year — as well as the NCAA Championships, the team is coming back from having three gymnasts place on the regional level last year.
“We’re working to definitely go to regionals as a team, because we’re more successful together, and being consistent too,” Cartwright said.
Burt, then a freshman, placed no. 19 on bars and no. 15 on the balance beam last year.
Cartwright, then a sophomore, placed no. 20 on bars. Taira Neal, then a senior, placed seventh on vault, scoring a team-high of 9.850.
Having only Neal graduate last year, the team remained almost the same, with minor changes in the make-up of other grades on the team.
According to Cartwright, the team’s dynamics are very different, though.
“We meet with sports psychiatrists a lot and they help us visualize before every meet,” Cartwright said.
Other goals of the team include obtaining a higher rank nationally.
They also want to maintain the program’s rankings position throughout the season.
“We have a drive in this team,” sophomore Kate Filosi said. “Last year, we wanted it so much too, but missing regionals made us have fire now.”
Filosi said that the main difference from last year is that they believe.
“The coach can tell you many times to believe and that you’re good, but once you experience it, you just want it that much more,” she said.
Cartwright said she has a goal of placing in both the Big Ten and NCAA National championships and will help the team achieve their goals, too.
The Spartans already reached a major early-meets goal, which is a key element in setting higher expectations and goals for the rest of the season.
“After the first meet, we already reached the 194 (point mark) we wanted. Last year, it took us a couple of meets,” Burt said.
The team scored 194.150 against Illinois, their first meet of the season.
Coach Klages agrees that the team started much better this year and plans to go further, too.
At the past two meets, the Spartans had tough falls on bars.
They will have to fix in practice to further their chances of competing and placing at higher-level competitions, team members said.
The Spartans’ next meet ?is at 2 p.m. Saturday at Jenison Field House against Penn State.