Closing up its home stand for the 2018 season, Ball State gymnastics (9-7, 3-2 MAC) looked to build momentum going into the Mid-American Conference Championships as it took on Eastern Michigan (6-5, 2-3 MAC). The Eagles were coming off a second-place finish at the Michigan State Quad last weekend.

Ball State started off on vault, an event where the team has seen neutral movement as of late. The Cardinals swept the standings on vault, taking the top four spots on the event. Sophomore Maddie Macdonald led the Cardinals on the day with a first-place finish of 9.900. Senior Claire Collins finished in second with a career-high score of 9.800. Freshman Arden Hudson, junior Sydeny Finke and sophomore Bri Slonim all tied for third with a score of 9.750. The Cardinals saw a huge 0.435-point improvement on vault from last weekend.

“They came out ready to start the meet,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “We focused on vault during practice, and it showed as we came out and started strong.”

Going into the rest of the meet, senior leadership on Senior Day showed to be key for the Cardinals. On bars, senior Jordyn Penny led the Cardinals with a third-place score of 9.775. Going into beam, Penny once again led the Cardinals, finishing in third with a score of 9.800. Senior Bayley Bell followed with a fourth-place score of 9.777. In the final rotation on floor, Bell finished in second place with a score of 9.775.

“There was definitely an emotional drive for our seniors today,” Saleem said. “We try to tell them that this is not any different from any other meet, but knowing it’s their last time competing at home, it’s going to factor in. Are they going to use those emotions to fuel the fire and leave it all out there or let that get in the way and have them trip up over it?”

While the seniors did have a strong performance today, the team saw major point deductions last from last weekend as the Cardinals would fall to the Eagles, 194.225-191.150. Ball State's finish today was the team’s second-worst finish of the season and saw major drop-off on bars, falling 1.825 points from last weekend. The team also saw a 3.425-point drop from last weekend's close loss to Northern Illinois.

“We need to get back into the gym and get our head on right,” Saleem said. “We need to come out and do the gymnastics we’ve been training to do all season long. Today’s performance was not how we trained in the gym, and we need to turn the ship around.”

The Cardinals currently sit second in the MAC standings behind Central Michigan. The Cardinals will take on last place Western Michigan Saturday and will finish off the season at Central Michigan on March 15. The Cardinals will return to Mount Pleasant on March 24 for the MAC Championships.

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