The Michigan State Spartans gymnastics team suffered its first defeat of the season at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, losing 196.350-196.475. The close loss came in the Spartans’ first Big Ten meet of the season, which was also MSU’s 15th annual Jan Howard Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Meet.
The Spartans started off on vault, where they scored 49.100. Freshman Gabrielle Stephen led the way for Michigan State in the event and got her name in the record books, scoring a perfect 9.95.
“I can’t ask for better on vault,” Stephen said. “It was so amazing to do, I’ve been working so hard...it was just such a good feeling.”
Still daydreaming about this perfect 9.95 from Gabi Stephen on vault last night pic.twitter.com/fqLUF4Ms7O— MSU Gymnastics (@MSU_Gymnastics) January 23, 2022
The team then moved to the uneven bars, where the Spartans scored 49.300. Freshman Skyla Schulte and sophomore Delanie Harkness led the way for the Spartans, each scoring 9.925. Following the first two events, the Spartans led the Hawkeyes 98.400-97.925.
The next event for the Spartans was the balance beam. The beam was the event that allowed the Hawkeyes to take the lead, as Iowa outscored Michigan State 49.200-48.625. Michigan State was led by sophomore Baleigh Garcia with a score of 9.900.
The Spartans finished the meet on the floor, with seniors Sydney Ewing and Ashley Hofelich leading the team with scores of 9.900 each. When asked about how the team performed, Ewing said that, although the team made some mistakes, she was proud of all of her teammates.
“I am honestly just so excited for my team,” Ewing said. “I know that we made a little bit of mistakes and we have some room to grow, but I am just so proud of all of them.”
The team was 4-0 on the season coming into Saturday’s meet, coming off wins over Bowling Green and Illinois State in a tri-meet on Jan. 15.
The Spartans face another big challenge next, traveling to Ann Arbor to face the reigning national champions and top-ranked team in the country in the Michigan Wolverines. When asked about how he views the upcoming matchup, as well as his thoughts on the matchup against Iowa on Saturday, Michigan State head coach Mike Rowe said he sees the opportunities as learning experiences for his team, as well as chances to prove themselves against the best competition.
“Next weekend in Ann Arbor, I mean the reigning national champions who are looking like it once again...we compete better with better competitors,” Rowe said. “Not that going against a non-conference opponent like we did last week didn’t validate what we can do, but if there were naysayers out there...when they saw this matchup tonight, that kind of helps them settle in and understand what we’re capable of.”
Rowe also emphasized that the team is not going to back down following its first defeat and that the Spartans are even more motivated now to get back to their winning ways.
“We’re not done, we’re certainly not done,” Rowe said. “These kids are even hungrier, if anything, to prove it.”