Coming hot off their win against the Ohio State Buckeyes Jan. 18, the Michigan State gymnastics team (1-2-0) hosted the No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1-0) in their second Big Ten meet of the 2020 season at Jenison Field House Sunday afternoon.
The Spartan ladies broke their overall season-high with a score of 196.550, the fifth-best in program history, but it was still not enough to beat out the Cornhuskers, who took the meet win with a score of 197.100.
"We haven't hit 196 that big in some time now," coach Mike Rowe said, focusing on the brighter side of their loss. "Really, really excited with where the program is going, what the girls are doing. Still taking baby steps every week, and it's working."
Rowe noted that the way the team takes on its opponents has a big influence on the girls' confidence levels, from the minute they walk into the room to the minute they leave.
The first rotation of the afternoon put Michigan State on the vault, where they were unable to reach the podium.
Similar to last week, the top three spots were snagged by the green and white's opponents: Nebraska junior Anika Dujakovich, who tied with Nebraska sophomore Adnerys De Jesus at 9.950 for first place, and Nebraska senior Taylor Houchin at 9.925 for third place.
The Spartans didn't make their mark on the board until fourth place, in a tie between Michigan State junior Lea Mitchell and senior Gabriella Douglas, who both scored a solid 9.825.
Mitchell tied her career-high with this score, sharing top team honors on the vault for her team. It was her second score of 9.800 or higher so far in the 2020 season.
Michigan State tied its season best on the vault with an overall score of 48.875.
Sophomore Ashley Hofelich was on the lineup for vault, Rowe said, but was unable to complete her routine after a slight injury during warmups.
Rowe mentioned that Hofelich was not the only one who was picked off to rest out injuries. The team had a few new people who stepped up instead.
The second rotation of the afternoon put Michigan State on the uneven parallel bars, where the Spartans received their first rose of the night, courtesy of freshman Jori Jackard.
Jackard logged a score of 9.900, not only calculating a career-high, but the highest official score on the bars by a Spartan this season.
Her routine was not only the gold medalist, but also a huge "Spartan stick".
The team has a tradition of parading around a gold-painted shield for those members who "stick something", as Rowe put it. "They get to carry it until the next person sticks, and then they hand it off to that person."
The artifact is becoming more visible as the season goes on and Rowe is excited that people are recognizing it.
Michigan State posted its second consecutive season-best on the bars with an overall score of 49.075.
Second place for the uneven parallel bars resulted in another two-way, Nebraska tie as junior Megan Verceles Carr and Houchin both logged a score of 9.875.
The third rotation of the afternoon put Michigan State on the beam, where Verceles Carr and Nebraska junior Makayla Curtis beat Douglas out for the top-dog spots.
Douglas rounded out the green and white beam lineup with a team-best score of 9.875. This is tallied as her fourth score of 9.800 or higher in the season, and she was the third competitor to snag the honor today.
Michigan State came up short from evening out their season-best on beam, scratching a score of 49.125.
Not on the scoreboard, but in the record books, is sophomore Alyssa Wiedeman, who dominated the beam, coming out with a clean career-high of 9.825.
The fourth and final rotation of the night put Michigan State on the floor, where the podium was decorated in green and white as Mitchell, Douglas, and Hofelich tapped out scores of 9.900 and higher.
Mitchell captured the title with a career-best 9.950. This is her second 9.900 or higher this season, allowing her to tie for the second highest-score in program history.
Douglas logged a career-high tying 9.925, taking her second season-high of the meet.
Michigan State made big impacts on floor, tying for best score in school history with an overall team-high of 49.475.
Also not on the scoreboard, but in the record books, is junior Tristan Brown, who tied her career-high floor routine with a solid 9.850.
In the all-around, Michigan State and Nebraska both handed out honors to their ladies.
In first place was De Jesus with a score of 39.450. Mitchell followed her closely in second place with a score of 39.275. Freshman Nyah Smith broke her career-high in the all-around with a score of 39.225, tying with Houchin for third place.
"We keep telling them every day: 'You've got what it takes, believe in yourself'," Rowe said. "They're starting to believe in themselves. You've seen the progress every week and they've still got more in them."
Rowe had faith that the girls could have taken the meet win against the Cornhuskers, but he is not discouraged in the slightest. "We'll wait a little longer," he said. "We would rather just continue doing what we're doing, taking these baby-steps, making them, and watching us maybe be a Cinderella story."
The Spartans are scheduled to fly out to the University of Iowa Saturday and compete against the Hawkeyes for their first away meet of the season.
"Iowa's always a tough team for us," Rowe said. "We've got to take this on the road and do it there, that's the only thing. We may have some little lineup changes depending on how practice goes this week, but we're down a few practices. ... That changes things up. You've got to be most productive in the amount of time that you have."