It wasn’t the start to the season that the Oregon State gymnastics team was hoping for on Friday afternoon.
The No. 13 Beavers had an unusual amount of mistakes throughout the meet and had a particularly difficult time on bars in a 194.300-191.850 loss to Boise State in Gill Coliseum.
No fans in the stands because of COVID didn’t help the Beavers’ cause. They are used to getting a boost from the home crowd, but this is a new era for sports teams almost anywhere.
“You try to prepare them as much as you can that the fans aren’t going to be there. The fans definitely make a difference. Obviously, that didn’t really contribute to some of the issues we had,” OSU coach Tanya Chaplin said.
“It is definitely different, because the routines, especially on floor ... you really are able to play to the fans and the fans really get you motivated to push even harder. Sometimes that can make a big, big difference and feeling more like what they feel like in the gym rather than when they’re competing.
"But it’s just the card that we’re dealt and we’ll get used to that and continue to improve with that element. We hope that maybe at some point in the season that we can at least get family into seats but that’s going to vary from state and county and what all their COVID protocols are. So we’re hopeful by the end of the season but we’re not holding our breath either.”
Madi Dagen said the fan support is her favorite part of a meet at Gill Coliseum, so the experience was a different one for her.
“We really tried to create our own energy in there and it was nice to see the cutouts up in the stands. It kind of made it feel like there were fans up there,” Dagen said. “It’s definitely something we’re going to have to get used to, but I think we did our best with bringing our own energy and we’re just going to have to keep building on that.”
The meet got off to a good start for the Beavers on vault.
Lena Greene returned to competition for the first time since 2019 and came through with a 9.800. Sydney Gonzales had a solid landing and scored a 9.825, Kaitlyn Yanish got good height on her Yurchenko layout-full vault for a 9.800 and Dagen anchored with a strong 9.900, sticking her landing.
“I was really excited for vault,” Dagen said. “I actually think that helped me. I just stayed cool, calm and collected and I think that now that I know that works for me, I’ll feel more confident going into the next meet.”
Then it all went haywire.
Major struggles on the uneven bars put the Beavers in a tough spot. The Beavers went into the event with a mostly new lineup and it was a rough go for the athletes.
Kristina Peterson led off with a 9.550 and that wound up the Beavers’ high score. Niya Mack stumbled on her landing, Kaitlyn Hoiland’s grip slipped off the high bar and then Jane Poniewaz had an extra swing during her routine and lunged on her landing. Kayla Bird and Jenna Domingo also had a tough time with the event.
The end result was a 45.800, likely among OSU’s lowest on the event in years, and gave Boise State a 97.850-94.850 lead halfway through the meet.
Chaplin was encouraged with how the Beavers responded despite the rough start and some setbacks.
“They didn’t give up through the rest of the meet,” Chaplin said. “They kept fighting all the way through the last routine on floor.”
A couple more slips came on beam, but the Beavers were able to recover and put up some good routines.
Bird had trouble to start the rotation. Peterson was steady and hit her routine despite a bobble or two and wound up with a 9.750. Lexie Gonzales seemed on her way to a good routine but slipped off and wound up with a 9.300, forcing the Beavers to count a low score on the event.
Sydney Gonzales stayed smooth through her beam routine and finished with a 9.750. Jenna Domingo also came up with a solid routine for a 9.825 and then Dagen stuck her landing for a 9.850.
The Beavers also had to count a low score on floor. Yanish did anchor with a 9.900.
“I think it’s a starting point and after going through just so much time off it was kind of like, we just want to see where we’re going to start this year and just build from there,” Dagen said.
“And so I just think we all know what we need to do now when we go back into the gym and we all know what we want to work for and how we want to improve. I have full faith that we’ll get back at it and just improve every meet and get better and better.”