Cardinals clinch season opener with a strong showing against Central Michigan

<p>The Ball State Gymnastics team takes a team selfie before facing the Central Michigan Chippewas in their home-opener Jan. 24, 2021, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals beat the Chippewas 193.500-192.375. <strong>Jacob Musselman, DN</strong></p>

The Ball State Gymnastics team takes a team selfie before facing the Central Michigan Chippewas in their home-opener Jan. 24, 2021, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals beat the Chippewas 193.500-192.375. Jacob Musselman, DN

Taking the floor Sunday afternoon for its season opener, Ball State defeated Central Michigan 193.50-192.375 in its first competition since March 8, 2020, after COVID-19 canceled its final three meets last season. 

“We’ve been training for the entire fall, and with starting a little later in the spring season, I think they were ready to get out on the competition floor,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “They were excited, and there was a lot of good energy out there today.”

The Cardinals began their first rotation in the vault, where junior Marissa Nychyk and freshman Victoria Henry both scored a 9.775, tying for the team high. Ball State ended the first rotation with a score of 48.525, trailing Central Michigan’s 48.700.

The team’s second rotation took them to the bars, where senior Arden Hudson came out flying. She tied a career-high score of 9.825 and earned the meet-high score. Hudson was a team leader throughout the competition, ending with Ball State’s second-most points scored.

“She is definitely one of our leaders, both vocally and physically,” Saleem said. “Being able to see her come out and take that competitive mindset to the competition floor is what you want. It’s definitely something that the younger girls can look up to.”

Ball State went into its third rotation trailing Central Michigan by just half a point. The beam proved to be the most challenging event for the Cardinals, where they scored 47.550 points — the lowest from the team. 

“That was very uncharacteristic of what we have been looking like for the last month and a half in the gym,” Saleem said of her team’s performance in the beam. “We need to reconfigure our mindset and feel the beam underneath us, so we can move freely and go out and do what we’ve been doing in practice every day.” 

Ball State Cardinals senior gymnast Arden Hudson preforms her balance beam routine against the Central Michigan University Chippewas Jan. 24, 2021, at John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals won 193.500-192.375. Jacob Musselman, DN

Despite Ball State’s challenges in the beam event, Hudson earned the meet-high score with 9.750 points.

The Cardinals entered their final rotation behind just one point to the Chippewas. The team rose to the occasion and took the floor by storm, scoring 48.600 points in the event to seal the victory over the Chippewas. Strong contributions from the Cardinals’ freshman class helped lead them to victory, as freshmen Victoria Henry, Suki Pfister and Hannah Ruthberg combined for 48.35 of the team’s 193.500 points.

Henry, in particular, stood out from the rest. Competing in three of the four rotations, she placed top-two in the team ranking for each event and recorded a team-high 29.275 points, helping solidify the Cardinals’ victory.

“Victoria has strong skills across the board and is always steady in the gym, which is something you are always excited to get when you have an incoming [freshman] class,” Saleem said. “Being able to get out here, see that she can embrace the competitive spirit and still perform really well is exciting.”

The Cardinals will look to improve to 2-0 next Sunday against Illinois State in Worthen Arena. 

Contact Connor Granlund with comments at crgranlund@bsu.edu or on Twitter @connorgranlund


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