BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Coach Nadalie Walsh emphasized that she thought the Ball State University gymnastics team was a top-three squad in the conference.
Despite the Cardinals' fifth-place finish in the Mid-American Conference Championships Saturday, the coach's opinion is unchanged.
"We knew coming into this we could've been third, but we just weren't [Saturday]," she said. "I just want this to be motivation for them from this point on into next year."
Close finishes have been a theme for the Cardinals this season, and it continued Saturday. Ball State scored a 193.1, finishing 0.1 behind fourth-place Northern Illinois University.
Walsh said she understands the close finishes just mean that her team is one step closer to the next level.
"I can't get frustrated. I need to be these girls' biggest fans and keep believing in them," she said. "I can't complain. We had a lot of banged up kids who held on [this year]."
Walsh said if Ball State could have had one more quality vault, the Cardinals would have passed the Eagles. And another high floor score would have let Ball State pass third-place Eastern Michigan University, she said.
Ball State was led by senior Bibiana Rodriguez, sophomore Brittney Emmons and redshirt freshman Julie Cotter. Rodriguez, defending her 2009 MAC title on the uneven bars, scored a 9.8 on Saturday, which was good for second place.
Rodriguez said she was happy with both her title defense as well as the team's performance.
"It was probably the best bars rotation we've had this year. We all stuck our dismounts," she said. "We did a really good job."
Cotter and Emmons each had a fifth-place finish Saturday. Cotter's was on the bars (9.75) and Emmons' was in the all-around (38.85).
"I feel like it just goes to show all the hard work paid off this year," Cotter said. "Just to be up there is reassuring. It feels good."
Emmons had two top-10 finishes in individual events: ninth on the vault (9.775) and 10th on the floor exercise (9.8). She said she was pleased to hit all four routines, but was a little disappointed in her floor placing.
"I can't help being on the first rotation of floor and not getting the score that I thought I deserved, but I can't complain," she said.
She was also named to the All-MAC Second Team as the only member.
"I would have never thought it [would happen]," Emmons said. "I was shocked as soon as they called my name. But everyone told me I deserved to be up there, so it's pretty cool to represent our school with this title."
Freshman Morgan Coslow had the sole career high for the Cardinals in the MAC Championships with a 9.675 on the bars.
Central Michigan won the meet with a score of 195.6. It is the 11th conference championship for the Chippewas and their first since 2004.
Central Michigan upended the regular-season champions, Kent State University, who had two costly falls on the balance beam and finished in second with a 195.025.
The Chippewas and the Golden Flashes almost swept the individual awards. Including ties, Central Michigan had seven individual titles and Kent State had three. Bowling Green State University and Western Michigan University each finished with one.
Walsh said she was happy that Ball State did not have to count a fall Saturday, to which she credited the entire team.
"This was a group effort," she said. "There's no one person that made this happen today."
This is the final team meet of the year for Ball State, but the season is not over.
The Cardinals will now await the results of other conference championship meets this weekend before finding out if any individuals will qualify the NCAA Central Regionals on April 10. Walsh said the team should know Monday who has qualified.
Final Team Results
1 Central Michigan 195.6
2 Kent State 195.025
3 Eastern Michigan 193.625
4 Northern Illinois 193.2
5 Ball State 193.1
6 Western Michigan 192.875
7 Bowling Green 191.85
Ball State Finish by Event
Event Score Place
Vault 48.125 6th
Bars 48.425 3rd
Beam 48.3 4th
Floor 48.25 6th
Total 193.1 5th