Rhett Umphress

With an improvement of more than five points from its last meet, the Ball State University gymnastics team earned its first and second victories of the season by finishing in second place at the University of New Hampshire Invitational Sunday.

Ball State posted a score of 192.85. However, the Cardinals' season-high team score was not enough to overcome the host Wildcats, who had a near flawless day to win the event with a score of 195. New Hampshire won each event to take the team title. Ball State finished in second in the uneven bars, the balance beam and the floor exercise.

The three seconds allowed the squad to defeat Utah State University (191.65) and Yale University (186.525) to pick up its first two wins of the season. Ball State evened its record at 2-2.

"To see the girls go up there, and put their all into it, it was great," coach Nadalie Walsh said.

Ball State had one victory on the day. Sophomore Brittney Emmons took the all-around title with a career-high 38.525. Her effort featured a 9.9 on the floor, another career-best. One judge gave Emmons a perfect 10 on her routine.

Season- and career-highs were the norm for the Cardinals. In all, the team posted 10 career highs and five more season highs. The Cardinals also had season high totals in each team event and their total score.

"I feel like they're just going to get better," Walsh said. "This meet is what they needed for their confidence."

Before the meet, Walsh said that her goal was to have 20 hit routines – routines without a fall – out of 24 opportunities. The team went above and beyond, hitting 23 routines Sunday, according to Walsh.

"It was nice to see the team that I see in practice day after day go out and perform in a meet," she said.

The team had three podium finishes in individual events on the day. Senior Bibiana Rodriguez and redshirt freshman Julie Cotter finished in a five-way tie for third on the bars. Emmons' 9.9 was good for second on the floor.

Rodriguez rebounded from a slow start to the season with Sunday's effort. She posted season bests in both the vault and the bars.

"Bibiana has earned the respect of her teammates," Walsh said. "She gives the girls a calm confidence."

Cotter returned to the squad after recovering from a nagging back injury. The injury had forced to miss the Western Michigan University meet last week.

"It's good to have [Cotter] back," Walsh said.

The Cardinals were propelled by an influx of freshman participation. Six of the 11 Cardinals in Sunday's meet were freshmen, accounting for seven of the 10 career highs. Walsh specifically noted Tiffany Brodbeck and Nicole Allen's achievements in hitting their routines and posting three career highs collectively.

"I don't feel like I have a bunch of freshmen," Walsh said. "We're very young; we're young, but we're not afraid. They act with a lot of experience."

Despite Ball State's best effort, it was New Hampshire's day. Along with winning each team event, the Wildcats won three of the four individual events. Their dominance was defined by their balance beam performance, where they swept the top four spots.

Walsh said that Ball State was attempting harder routines than New Hampshire, but it was the Wildcats' clean and precise routines that gave them the victory.

Ball State returns to action next Sunday when it hosts Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Illinois-Chicago in the Cardinal Classic at Worthen Arena. Walsh said that the achievements of this meet will only lead to higher expectations for the next.

"We just need to keep climbing from here," Walsh said. "These girls work really hard. It's starting to click."