As the Ball State gymnastics team reaches the midway point of the 2011 season, the squad feels things are starting to fall into place.
"I think everyone is starting to get into the rhythm of things," senior Paige Oswalt said. "Everyone is finally figuring out their steps, figuring out the little things that bring everyone together as a team."
Ball State will find out how prepared it is during Friday's 7 p.m. contest at Illinois-Chicago.
Depending on how you look at it, Ball State comes into Friday's meet as the favorite. The Cardinals are listed as the No. 48 team in the country, averaging 191.085 per meet. Meanwhile, the Flames have scored 190.305 per meet (No. 51), but Illinois-Chicago posted a season-high 193.45 last week at Arizona.
Sophomore Morgan Coslow said the team is developing a sense of reliability on one another and that it should show Friday.
"Everyone is finally starting to get in the groove of things and trust their teammates and know that when we go out there, we're putting the best people out there," Coslow said. "Whether you're a freshman or a senior, we're going to trust what our coaches are doing."
While the Cardinals are a freshmen-laden team, coach Nadalie Walsh said they have adjusted to the learning curve of college gymnastics.
"There's no reason for them to not have figured that out by now," Walsh said. "I think that competition is no longer, ‘I wonder what's going to happen.'"
Coslow said getting into the rhythm of weekly meets has been good for the Cardinals.
She continued by saying that Ball State's new, consequence-based practices should show results in the near future.
"Obviously, practice isn't going to be perfect, but we're trying to stress more that you practice like you're going to compete," Coslow said.
As Ball State is learning, it is becoming more of a team, Walsh said.
"The sense of being lost is gone, so there can be a better sense of unity," she said.
Walsh and Oswalt said the gymnasts have been focusing on working as event teams — the vault team, the uneven bars team and so on. Each event is setting goals of scoring a 48.5, which would combine for a team score of 194.
Everything is being focus on the team first, Coslow said.
"Individually, I want to do well, but I don't think that's nearly as important as going out there for the team and doing the routines that we practice," she said. "The way we've been practicing and the way we're starting to get in the groove of competition, I expect a big win tomorrow."
Which Ball State and Illinois-Chicago shows up — the error-prone squads of earlier in the season or the glimpses of precision showed by both squads at times — will go a long way to determining the winner.
"I want to see a mix of the energy that they had at the end of the last meet and the confidence that they had at Eastern Michigan," Walsh said. "If we put those two meets together, that would be mission accomplished."