Rhett Umphress

Take the Ball State University gymnastics team's best score in years. Add the team that managed to outlast that performance. Then throw in a third squad that is just as competitive as the other two.

The point being that Worthen Arena should be in for quite a treat this afternoon when Ball State hosts Illinois State University and Texas Woman's University in a 1 p.m. start.

The last time Ball State and Illinois State met, the Cardinals posted a 193.925, the program's best score in six years. However, it was not enough to overcome the Redbirds, who won the meet by 0.225 with a 194.15.

In all, Ball State (3-6) has dropped its last three meets. Coach Nadalie Walsh said that even though the team is in a losing streak, she knows that her squad has been competitive.

"Nobody's beating us by a landslide," she said. "It's been very marginal [differences]."

Walsh said that her team is ready to go for another win.

"I feel they're real confident and they're excited," she said. "It's not about the gymnastics at this point; it's about them being mentally prepared."

The Cardinals have had several leaders who have stepped up in recent weeks. Along with sophomore Brittney Emmons' consistent performance in the all-around, senior Bibiana Rodriguez has finished in first place on the uneven bars the last three weeks.

"It's the best feeling in the world to have a senior who knows how to compete and how to have fun doing it," Walsh said.

Freshman Morgan Coslow has also become a consistent scorer on the vault for the Cardinals in the last few weeks.

The Cardinals will be without redshirt freshman Julie Cotter for the meet. This will be the fourth meet she had missed this year due to illness or injury. Walsh said she will look to senior Ashley Jacob to take Cotter's place.

Illinois State (7-2) is led by junior Erica Schick, the reigning Midwest Independent Conference all-around Athlete of the Week. Schick won the all-around and the bars in her last meet.

Texas Woman's (3-4) is led by sophomore Rashonda Cannie, who scored a season-best 39.025 two weeks ago.

Statistically, this is shaping up to be a close matchup. The three teams are separated by less than 0.7 points, slightly more than the difference of a fall. Whichever team can minimize mistakes and can count five clean routines on each event will likely come out with the victory.

If the Cardinals are going to win today, they place they will need to minimize mistakes is on the balance beam. Ball State had three consecutive falls on the beam last week, which caused its loss to Bowling Green State University.

Walsh said that she had the team focus on beam in practice. The gymnasts have to be able to put mistakes behind them, she said, and she thinks they will be able to do that Sunday.

Team                    Season Average   National Ranking
Illinois State         191.838                  42
Texas Woman's  191.582                  44
Ball State               191.204                 45