PLYMOUTH — After a stellar finish against a loaded field at the Merrillville Invitational last Saturday, the Plymouth gymnastics team had high hopes coming into its dual meet with LaPorte Tuesday.
But a lackluster finish on bars preceded some uncharacteristic mishaps on beam, and the No. 16-ranked Lady Pilgrims fell short of a program-first win over No. 10 LaPorte in a narrow 100.6-98.125 loss at home on Senior Night.
“We had a good meet this weekend, and we went up against some really good teams and we did really well. We’re at the point now — and we’ve talked about this ever since we went to regional last year — where with great success comes great expectations, and the expectations are kind of going up and up and up for us this year,” said Plymouth gymnastics coach Tony McPherron. “They came in tonight thinking this was another chance to knock off a ranked team. From what we’ve seen of them, from what I’ve scouted them on, we had a really good chance, and we talked a lot this week about how we had a really good chance to beat these guys tonight on Senior Night. Maybe that backfired on me, I don’t know. We just were a little nervous tonight.”
Plymouth’s hopes of a Senior Night win underwent a setback early on in their second event of the evening as three of the team’s top four recorded a quartet of falls in the uneven bars. Junior Nicky Davis — ranked 12th individually in the state — fell after striking her foot on the lower bar, ultimately finishing fourth with a 7.6 score, and Traci Longanecker’s hand ripped open, forcing the senior off the apparatus briefly on her way to a sixth-place finish with a 4.7 score in the event.
Davis also fell on beam to finish a disappointing fourth there, and No. 15-rated Plymouth sophomore Cassi Quissell had to settle for second in the event after recording a fall of her own in the evening’s penultimate event.
“It was definitely bars. Two points is four falls, and we had four falls on bars with our last three girls,” said McPherron of the team loss Tuesday. “On bars, some of the falls were things that just happened — Nicky slips and hits her foot, and Traci rips her hand and starts bleeding on the bars so she falls. Then we come to beam, and three of our last girls fall. Cassi and Nicky, two of the things they fell on tonight were things they’ve never fallen on in two years and three years, respectively. I don’t know if it was nerves tonight and trying to go out and do things for the seniors, but we just did not have our best meet tonight and it cost us in the end.”
Davis bounced back from her disappointing showings in the bars and beam with a second-place finish in the floor exercise on a score of 8.675 to place fourth in the all-around competition. Longanecker wound up sixth in the all-around with a 28.85 score that included a third-place turn on the beam, and Karly Gruett finished fifth for the Pilgrims with a 29.95 score, including a third-place turn on the floor with an 8.3 score. No. 15-ranked sophomore Quisell turned in Plymouth’s top score of the night, placing second in three events and first in the floor for an all-around score of 34.725, good enough to beat out LaPorte’s Hannah Sightes for first after Sightes took the top spot in every event except the floor, where she finished a distant seventh to end the night with 34.35 points in second place.
“Cassie had the best bar routine I think I’ve ever seen her have tonight, and she didn’t get her personal best score,” said McPherron. “I don’t know what happened there, but I thought she was phenomenal on bars tonight. That’s the frustrating thing about this sport is that, it’s not in my hands to judge. It’s not about putting the ball through the hoop or kicking the ball through the goalpost where it either is or isn’t; it’s what the judge thinks it is.”
“She’s pretty much a rock for us,” he added. “She’s always in that 35 point neighborhood somewhere, and I really think she can get up to that 36, 37 neighborhood. We’ve got to get Nicky up there too.”
Following the competition, Plymouth paid tribute to four senior gymnasts in Longanecker, Katie Galloway, Rachel Prinicipe and foreign exchange student Val DiTizio.
“Over the last four years, Rachel and Katie have gotten so much better; I’m so proud of those two,” McPherron said. “Rachel broke her leg before our first meet so she’s not able to compete. We’re hoping to get her back in the next couple weeks. We’re hoping she can get at least one competition in her senior year because she deserves it. Traci’s been with us for three years… she came in with some background in gymnastics and immediately became one of our top four girls and has gotten better every year.
“Val came in from Italy on their national rugby team and has never done gymnastics in her life, but I always tell the girls if you’re an athlete we can make you somewhat of a gymnast. The best thing I can say about Val is she always has a smile on her face, and she makes everybody laugh every single day. She truly works hard. For never having done it before, she had a no-fall beam routine tonight, that’s her second one of the year, so I’m so proud of her as well.”
On the heels of their only home meet of the year, Plymouth will hit the road for the Lakeland Invitational Saturday.
The big meet has traditionally been a grind for the Pilgrims, so they’ll take a little time today off before resuming work Thursday to get tuned up for the invite.
“That’s been our worst meet of the year the last four years, and I don’t know why. It’s 17 teams or something like that. It takes all day long, and I don’t know if we are just mentally drained by the end of the day, but we’ve always done really poorly,” said McPherron. “This week we’re going to kind of change things up. The girls don’t know it yet, but I’m going to give them the day off tomorrow, let them kind of just recoup and refocus. We’ll come back and get at it Thursday and Friday and work on the things we need to work on.”
• LaPORTE 100.6, PLYMOUTH 98.125
Plymouth individual scores (place in parenthesis)
Vault Bars Beam Fx AA
Nicky Davis 8.7(2, tie) 7.35 (4) 7.6(4, tie) 8.675(2) 32.325(4)
Cassi Quissell 8.7 (2, tie) 8.75(2) 8.5(2) 8.775(1) 34.725(1)
Traci Longanecker 8.3(4, tie) 4.7(6) 8.1(3) 7.75(6) 28.85(6)
Karly Gruett 8.1(6) 6.35(5) 7.2(6) 8.3(3) 29.95(5)
JV score: LaPorte 77.25, Plymouth 55.15