Rhett Umphress

Which Cardinals will show up Saturday: the team that finished at the bottom of the Mid-American Conference regular-season standings or the team that has the third-highest scores in the conference?

"There's a great chance that we could be in the top three at this meet," coach Nadalie Walsh said. "Really, it's going to be the team that makes the least amount of mistakes. My team has been competing week in and week out without making a lot of major mistakes."

Senior Bibiana Rodriguez echoes the sentiment that the team is capable of a strong finish, if they can eliminate errors.

"We still haven't hit a meet, and we're doing this well," she said. "If we can go out there and hit every routine, stick every dismount and do everything like we have done individually but just not the same day at the same time, we can make history at Ball State."

The Ball State University gymnastics team will find out what it is capable of when it travels to Bowling Green, Ohio, at 2 p.m. Saturday to compete in the MAC Championships.

The seven MAC schools with gymnastics programs will come together to vie for the championship. Although Ball State has not competed with more than four teams in a meet this season, the team is trying to remain focused on its performance.

"I think that we shouldn't look at it any different than any other meet," freshman Morgan Coslow said. "We can't control what they do; we just control what we do."

The order of competition for the meet was decided by the regular-season standings. Ball State finished in a tie for sixth, losing the tiebreaker to Western Michigan University from a Jan. 10 loss, and will start on the floor exercise for the first time this year.

"I think we'll be able to set the standard really high for every other team that goes after us because we're a really strong floor team this year," sophomore Brittney Emmons said. "If we can put up some big scores, that makes everyone a little nervous to have to go after us."

The team will finish the meet on the balance beam. Junior Katelyn Busacker said the Cardinals are ready to step up in the last event.

"It's just our way of proving ourselves," she said. "It could make or break our performance, but I think we're excited to make it happen and show everyone we can do it."

Busacker and Emmons both said the goal for Ball State is to hit 24 of 24 routines – those without a fall – and put up the best score possible.

"That [goal] would just be coming from them," Walsh said. "They probably just want to have everybody hit, so that we can take the best of our best scores."

Walsh said the vault is an event the Cardinals need to do well in, but stressed that every event is important in terms of being successful.

"No team is going to win this week without hitting all four events," she said.

Ball State has multiple gymnasts who can compete for individual titles. On the all-around, Emmons is ranked No. 9, but she has the fourth-highest score of the season in the conference.

On the floor, Emmons and freshman Tiffany Brodbeck are two of five MAC gymnasts to score a 9.9 this season. Brodbeck comes into the championships fresh off that score, which she put up Sunday against Eastern Michigan University. Emmons will also be a contender on the vault, where she is also in the top 10 in the conference.

Rodriguez will look to defend her MAC title on the uneven bars.

"I feel more motivated because of my performance last year," Rodriguez said. "It makes me strive for more."

Walsh said that resting some gymnasts over the last few weeks has given her plenty of gymnasts to choose from in making her lineup.

"We have seven or eight really good kids on each event right now, so it's really going to be in picking the right lineup," she said.

Walsh said she is still evaluating gymnasts this week in practice before she makes her final lineup choices. She said sticking landings is one area that has been stressed in practice in preparation for Saturday.

Along with conference bragging rights being at stake, this is the last chance for the gymnasts to improve their Regional Qualifying Scores.

As a team, Ball State has been eliminated from going to regionals, but several individuals still have the chance to qualify.

As of today, Emmons, on the floor, would be the only gymnast to qualify. But several gymnasts – Emmons (all-around), Rodriguez (bars) and Brodbeck (floor) – still have opportunities to improve and advance.

Emmons said she's aware of what she needs in the all-around to qualify, but hasn't let it put any pressure on her performance Saturday.

"I'm just going to go out there and do what I've been doing every week," she said, "and if they give high scores out, great."

Central Michigan University and Kent State University will be the favorites to take home the title, but Walsh said her team is capable of a top-three finish.

"If they go out there and they apply what they've been practicing [and] do what they've been doing, I really believe that top three is nowhere near out of reach," she said.

Ranking By Regular Season Standings
1. Kent State 9-3 (6-0)
2. Central Michigan 12-2 (5-1)
3. Bowling Green 5-7 (4-2)
4. Eastern Michigan 7-9 (2-4)
5. Kent State 10-7 (2-4)
6. Western Michigan 8-15 (1-5)
7. Ball State 6-10 (1-5)

Ranking by Regional Qualifying Score
1. Central Michigan 195.11
2. Kent State 194.9
3. Ball State 192.96
4. Bowling Green 192.655
5. Northern Illinois 192.335
6. Eastern Michigan 191.905
7. Western Michigan 191.73