Two falls on beam forced the Cardinals to take a 9.175, leaving them down by 1.125 going into the fourth and final rotation.
The result was five scores on floor all over 9.750. Along with two falls from Kent State on beam, this allowed Ball State to come from behind and overtake the Golden Flashes another strong finish from junior Claudia Goyco, taking first with a score of 9.900.
Ball State defeated Kent State 194.575 to 194.450, advancing to 9-4 on the season. They also recorded a season-high on bars of 48.825.
“Our message is you can only control what is right in front of you,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “We would have liked to do better on beam, but we needed to stay focused on where we were going and to be able to go to floor, let go what just happened and pull together as a group. They are confident over there and didn’t let anything from another event affect them, so for them to come over to floor, have fun and do what they have been training to do is what gave us the push at the end to take the win.”
Despite being down late, the Cardinals cheered all six gymnasts on the floor in the final rotation. In addition to Goyco’s second straight 9.900 finish on floor, Ball State saw strong performances from freshman Alivia Ostendorf, who tied for second place with a score of 9.850 and the trio of senior Rachel Benoit, sophomores Stefanie Schweikert and Marissa Nychyk, who all finished with scores of 9.775.
While there was a strong showing on the floor, team captains sophomore Lauren Volpe and junior Arden Hudson motivated their teammates on the side. Both had a strong showing throughout the meet as Hudson finished on bars and beam with a score of 9.750. Volpe scored a 9.175 on bars.
“We have had several people on the team this year step up in a leadership role and if you look at the team, you could go through each person and see them as a leader,” Saleem said. “Our two captains Lauren and Arden are really stepping up into a role of being a captain, being able to help people with the logistics of where we need to be and how we need to get there.”
For Hudson, she believes that her experience in club gym had really prepared her to step in as a team leader at Ball State. In dealing with players leaving her club program and team tragedy, Hudson has been in the position before to step in when the team needs someone.
“I think it’s just who I am, I grew up as the leader of my club gym, because all my friends were older, and when they left I had to step up,” Hudson said. “We also had some tragedies at my gym so I also learned to step up that way. I like to have fun and talk to people and I can see when they are going one way or the other, so I just try to calm them down and be there for them.”
Hudson had the stomach flu earlier in the season and practiced and performed while still sick. Her mentality to perform and practice no matter what coincides with what Saleem has been preaching to her team throughout the entire season. Grit. Hudson said as soon as she walks into the gym or on the floor, everything just disappears.
“Honestly when I walk in the gym everything leaves my mind, it’s always been my happy place and I think it always will be,” Hudson said. Whether I’m sick or I had a bad test or day it’s all gone by the time I am starting events.”
The sense of grittiness has pushed Ball State to one of its best starts in years, sitting in second place in the Mid-American Conference Standings and on the cusp of matching its win total from last season with five meets left. Even on Alumni Day, those sitting in the audience who used to perform on the same exact floor can tell there is something special in the air.
“This team is really gritty, they go in one routine at a time, focused on what they are doing,” former Ball State gymnast Sydney Finke said. “If something bad happens they are able to pull it back together and focus on what is going on at that moment.”