Coach Nadalie Walsh is trying to answer one question.
"It's still early, but where are we as a team?" she said.
Walsh hopes to find answers this Saturday when the Ball State University women's gymnastics team hosts the University of Kentucky in an exhibition meet at 1 p.m. in Worthen Arena. This will be the first exhibition meet that the Cardinals have held during Walsh's tenure. In previous seasons, the team has held an intrasquad exhibition to prepare for the regular season, she said.
This year's squad will be led by sophomore Brittney Emmons and senior Bibiana Rodriguez. Emmons qualified for the NCAA Regional in both the vault and floor and Rodriguez qualified for Regionals in the uneven bars. Walsh said that both girls were already looking great this early in the season. She also credited sophomore Kayla Kmiecik for stepping up and becoming a leader on the team.
"The core of team is stepping up," Walsh said.
Walsh said that she feels that the team is mostly ready for the vault, uneven bars and balance beam, but thinks that the team is still developing in the floor exercise. Many of the floor routines will be a little watered down this Saturday, she said, with the goal of having five of the six women hit their routines cleanly.
"We want to have a safe, good experience," Walsh said.
The team will also look to replace some lost parts from last season. Along with replacing NCAA Regional competitor Teresa Phipps, seniors Brittney Bauer and Laura Shockey have both been ruled out for the season. Bauer suffered a knee injury and Shockey hurt her shoulder. Bauer will be missed in the floor exercise, which she competed in all 12 meets last year. Shockey has missed the last two seasons, sitting out the 2008-2009 campaign with a medical redshirt. Walsh said that the duo will still provide senior leadership and offer their experience and knowledge to the rest of the team.
One addition to the team will be freshman Morgan Coslow. Walsh said that Coslow will most likely see action in every event on Saturday.
"It's always great to see the freshman in action," Walsh said.
Not every Cardinal gymnast will compete against the Wildcats. Walsh did not specify who would sit, but she said that she did not want to put anyone in a situation where they could injure themselves.
"If the girls aren't ready, it's okay to rest them," she said.
Another benefit of the exhibition is the opportunity to compete against top NCAA gymnasts. Described by Walsh as a perennial top-18 team, Kentucky finished the season with a sixth-place finish at NCAA Central Regionals, a national ranking of 30 and have made the regional championships for five straight years. The Wildcats leaders include senior Hillary Ferguson, who competed in the all-around in every meet last year, and sophomore Whitney Rose, the 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year.
"It's going to be good for my team to see their team," Walsh said.
Despite the exhibition title, Walsh plans on treating this just like a regular season contest. The Cardinals faced the Wildcats in a five-way meet last season and lost to them by less than two points. Ball State last defeated Kentucky in the NCAA Regional in 1999.
As the meet approaches, Walsh is excited by the potential of this year's team, but there's still going to be some mystery until she sees the gymnasts go into action.
"I just don't know exactly what's going to happen," she said. "I'm curious to see who's going to go out and be competitive."