Last season, the Michigan State gymnastics team shocked the gymnastics world by making it all the way to NCAA Regionals and finishing second in the Big Ten. Now, having earned those accolades, it's safe to say that the underdog label is no longer necessary.
Two years ago, the Spartans ended their 2021 season ranked 56th in the nation—just one year later, they ended the 2022 season as the 9th-ranked women's gymnastics team.
Michigan State came into the 2022 season as 36th-ranked underdogs and blew everyone’s expectations out of the water, but the story is a little different this year.
The Spartans were ranked 12th in the 2023 preseason poll, logging their highest preseason ranking since 2009.
Michigan State is currently 2-1 this season, having taken on two top-10 opponents in the first three weeks. The Spartans lost their first meet against Alabama on the road, but have been undefeated since.
Following the loss, the Spartans dropped down to No. 14, but after Sunday night’s big win over No. 3 Michigan in front of a full house, MSU jumped back up to No. 12.
In the home opener, the Spartans put up their highest score of the season with a 197.200.
Head coach Mike Rowe jokingly said after the win that he hates not being the underdog anymore because there is an expectation that wasn’t there before.
“It'll grow on us,” Rowe said. “And trust me when I say their confidence is gonna go boom.”
The Spartans are ranked in the top ten on two apparatuses—No. 6 on the vault and No. 9 on floor. They are also ranked in the top 25 on the two other—No. 11 on the balance beam and No. 24 on the uneven parallel bars.
One of the top performers on the roster this year is freshman Nikki Smith, who took first place in the all-around in the meet against Michigan with a score of 39.525.
Smith is now the 45th-ranked gymnast in the nation and continues to improve every week.
“We are ready to just go out there and do the best that we can and show that Michigan's state is not done yet," Smith said.
The Spartans have a plethora of incredible gymnasts on their roster this season and even more coming next year. The large talented roster is a huge plus for the team, but it also comes with some tough decisions for Coach Rowe.
“We'll just keep going, going, going as much as we can,” Rowe said. “We got great recruits coming in next year replacing the ones that are going to leave. I actually think two of our seniors are probably coming back for a fifth year, so we're gonna have our biggest roster—probably 23 next year. That'll be new for us to deal with, but we're excited”
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