There are many new faces on the Oregon State gymnastics team this season.
That's because the Beavers lost six seniors off of last year's team that went to the NCAA Championships.
It also happened to be a very strong senior class that included three-time first-team all-American Madeline Gardiner; Kaytianna McMillan, who was second-team on floor, the 2017 Pac-12 gymnast of the year and a first-team 2016 regular-season all-American on bars; Erika Aufiero, who was a second-team all-American on bars and a first-team pick in 2015; and Silvia Colussi-Pelaez, who landed on the second team on bars.
Needless to say, the Beavers face the 2018 season with a young team dominated by freshmen and sophomores.
"Because of the loss we knew we were going to be filling a lot of shoes," coach Tanya Chaplin said. "So over the fall it's been wonderful to watch the growth of these athletes and step up to, and beyond, where we originally thought. So they're doing a great job of really stepping up and putting those routines together."
Chaplin said freshman Kaitlyn Yanish will step right in and compete in three events for the Beavers.
Savanna Force could compete in two events, Niya Mack will either be in the floor lineup or exhibition and Colette Yamaoka could make an event lineup as well.
"The sophomores and freshmen are the majority of our team and the freshmen came in in great shape and ready to go," Chaplin said. "So we'll definitely see some of our freshmen class that will be contributors either in lineups or like right there ready to take a spot."
With five freshmen and eight sophomores on the roster, it leaves seniors Shireen Khamedoost and Dani Dessaints and juniors Mariana Colussi-Pelaez, McKenna Singley and Mary Jacobsen as the older, more experienced gymnasts.
They all have taken on leadership roles.
"I think a lot of the upperclassmen and even the sophomores are stepping into a leadership role. It's good, a lot of new people get to compete so they're really training hard and ready to show everyone how great they are," Jacobsen said.
"I think we can try to explain to them what it feels like (to take the competition floor) but really they just have to get out there. But at the end of the day a routine's a routine, it's the same in the gym as it is out there, so as long as they just trust in all the practice they've done, I think we'll be great."
Dessaints is not overly concerned about the youthfulness of the team.
Both Dessaints and Jacobsen pointed out that the Beavers have an even stronger than usual bond.
"This team has something special to it. We say that every year, but this team has so much potential," Dessaints said. "Even last year we thought our team was close, but this year it just seems like we're even closer and we understand each other and we know when something happens, or if we get on each other, it's for the best and it's for each other and we really care about one another and we just want what's best for one another. It's all about where we want to go and that's what it comes down to."
Sophomore Sabrina Gill will be expected to be one of OSU's all-arounders this season. Singley is also scheduled for the all-around in Saturday's opener at Pittsburgh.
The plan is for Singley to stay as an all-arounder as long as she remains healthy. She competed on just bars in 2017.
"She's another one that as they get older, you have to kind of manage their aches and pains to get through the season," Chaplin said.
"So that's something that hopefully by the end of the season we have her as an all-arounder. I don't know if she'll be there the whole year."
Dessaints is among the top returners, but will go with three events in order to avoid too much wear and tear. An aggravated knee injury slowed her start in 2015 and she missed all but the season-opener in 2016 when she was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Dessaints competed on vault and beam last season and had highs of 9.950 on both events.
"She's a senior so she's going to have those little things with her body, but she has been very good," Chaplin said. "Last year was also showing that she listens to her body more and sometimes we have to pull back and we can push forward. So we'll take each week at a time and see what we can do, but she's working three events and that's more than we originally thought she could do. So she's doing an excellent job."
Jacobsen has been one of OSU's most consistent gymnasts and competed on vault and bars all last season and floor through most of the meets.
She had a high score of 9.900 on vault and 9.850 on bars. She also scored a 9.850 on floor.
"We still plan on having her compete on the three events she has been competing on," Chaplin said. "I believe, to me, watching her vault and floor, they've really developed and they're stronger than they were the last couple of seasons."
Colussi-Pelaez returns to the bars lineup for the Beavers. She had a top score of 9.850 last year.
Khamedoost was a steady contributor on bars as well and had a best of 9.850.
Sohomore Isis Lowery was in the floor rotation the entire season and had a high score of 9.900 twice on the event.
At some point this season the Beavers will also have Florida transfer Lacy Dagen available for action.
Dagen, a junior, is currently battling back from injury and Chaplin said they are taking it one week at a time. Chaplin said she expects Dagen to join the beam lineup and possibly other events when she's ready.
"There's a lot of people that have stepped up and exceeded where they were last year and so it's great to see that because you really don't know," Chaplin said. "You look at it and you know the talent you have, but you're really not sure what's going to come to fruition when that senior class leaves. I expect that we'll have some growing to do throughout the season but I'm really excited with the group of athletes and the potential that they have."