Ball State showcased a mixture of old and new faces in Friday's exhibition loss to Kentucky.
The Wildcats won the meet 188.825-187.875.
All eight freshmen competed for the Cardinals, including Leah Wilson, who tied for first on the balance beam with a 9.75.
"Coming in here, I didn't know what to expect," Wilson said. "Being with the team and all of us cheering was a whole different experience."
Coach Nadalie Walsh said this first college competition was important for the freshman.
"They needed today. They needed just to get out there and, hit or miss, to be able to leave saying, ‘Gymnastics, this is what I love. Why do I need to let it emotionally affect me?'" Walsh said.
Perhaps the most impressive Cardinals gymnast was sophomore Nicole Allen, who bested her career highs while winning the all-around (38.3) and finishing third in the vault (9.75).
Allen showed growth in her gymnastics when compared to her freshman results.
"I think just the year of experience has definitely made me a more mature gymnast," Allen said. "I know what to expect now, and I know what I can contribute to the team."
The Cardinals were slightly better than their 2009 exhibition meet, scoring almost half a point more than they did against the Wildcats in last season's exhibition.
Ball State's best event was the vault, in which the Cardinals scored a 48.1 -- only 0.025 less than their score at last season's MAC championships. However, Ball State struggled on the uneven bars and the beam, including four of eight routines with falls on the beam.
"I think we had a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes," Walsh said. "Even though we fell a lot [Friday], I see a lot of potential in this team. I'm really not worried. We just need more time."
Kentucky was led by senior Phylicia Reshard, who tied for first on the vault; sophomore Caitlyn Ciokajlo, who won the bars; and junior Storey Morris, who tied for first on the beam.
Junior Brittney Emmons won the floor exercise with a 9.75.
With more than a month before their next meet, Allen and Wilson said they want to spend time cleaning their routines and eliminating any minor mistakes before the start of the regular season.
"It's the difference between a win or a loss -- just those little tenths," Allen said.