If a sports season is a long and winding road, Sunday might represent one of the longest stretches for the Ball State University women's gymnastics team.
At approximately 950 miles away, the trip to Durham, N.H. from Muncie represents the farthest that the squad will be away from its nest this season. The extended travel will be unique for the team. The Cardinals will fly to the meet, which allows the team to take only its competitors, coach Nadalie Walsh said.
The purpose of this extended travel is for the gymnastics team to vault its way to its first win of the season in New Hampshire in a four-team meet.
Ball State will face off against the University of New Hampshire, Utah State University and Yale University at 1 p.m.
Walsh said that she is excited about the four-way competition, as there is a greater energy in the arena.
"I feel like there's more going on," she said.
The Cardinals are looking to rebound after dropping their first match of the Mid-American Conference season. Ball State fell to Western Michigan University 189.2-187.425.
Walsh said that the additional teams will be a benefit of hers. The pace of the meet willbe somewhat more frenetic, she said, and it will force the team to be more focused. She said that the team was getting distracted during the lulls in its meet against Western Michigan Jan. 10.
"The girls need to be focused on what they are doing," Walsh said. "Each girl has something different they need to focus on."
The host Wildcats will want to expand upon their victory from last weekend. New Hampshire defeated the University of Rutgers 189.725-188.925. Junior Chelsea Steinberg won two events in her first meet of the season to lead the Wildcats. Utah State opened its schedule Friday with a loss at Central Michigan, 192.275-187.275. Junior Jackie Dillon was the top scorer for the Aggies.
Yale represents the wild card of the meet, as it will be the team's first meet of the season. The Bulldogs finished the 2009 season with a score of 184.45 in their conference championship. Yale is a youthful bunch, with only two seniors and one junior. Both seniors, Allison Mak and team captain Brigette Kivisto, are expected to compete in the all-around.
This will be the first matchup of Ball State with any of its opponents under Walsh's tenure. And with a variance among the teams of less than three points, this could be a close one.
Ball State looks to continue its performance in two events and regroup in the other two. In the team's season opener last Sunday, the Cardinals had solid performances in the vault and floor exercise. 11 of the 12 participants in those events scored a 9.25 or better. However, they struggled on the uneven bars and balance beam. Four falls on the beam cost the squad a chance at picking up its first victory last weekend.
In reaction to the beam troubles, Walsh said that she had the team focus on that event during practice this week. In what the coach describes as a "good week of practice," she tried to recreate a meet atmosphere by bringing in an audience to watch the women rehearse their routines.
Walsh said that the goal for the meet is to hit 20 of their 24 routines. Doing this would allow the Cardinals to count only scores in which there was not a fall, as scores with falls would likely be dropped.
"We need to make them feel confident so they can do [their routines] no matter what," she said.