BOWLING GREEN - The Bowling Green State University gymnastics team posted its highest season-opening score since 2004 Saturday, hitting a 192.2 to fall to Ohio State (194.6) in Anderson Arena.
Both teams breezed through vault and bars, but ran into trouble in the second half of the meet, as the Falcons were forced to count falls on beam and floor, while the Buckeyes suffered a disastrous three-fall floor exercise rotation.
Bowling Green's final total is the highest score to start the season since the 2004 team opened with a 193.450 in a win over Eastern Michigan. Last year, the Falcons opened the season with a 188.925 on the road at Kentucky.
"I'm just so pleased that our team score improved so greatly on our start from last year," said head coach Kerrie Beach. "We had a lot of new people in the lineups and they really stepped up and did a good job. I'm encouraged that our lineups are only going to continue to grow and get better."
The Falcons began with a strong showing of 48.55 on the vault, highlighted by scores of 9.85 from Jamilah Ali and 9.8 from Sunny Marchand. Marchand, a senior, hit a beautiful Yurchenko layout half, after missing all of last season with injuries.
"That was amazing," Beach said. "Sunny was a huge question mark and we didn't know if she was going to make it back. It was really so exciting to see her go out there because she loves it so much. I know she wishes she could train every event, but we'll take just vault in her senior season."
Bowling Green remained steady on uneven bars, with all six gymnasts hitting routines to hit the 48.0 mark on the event. Amanda Lievendag anchored and scored 9.75 hitting a Gienger release and double layout dismount. On vault, Ohio State stuck their landings to stay ahead of the Falcons, with Sarah Miller nailing a difficult vault to earn a score of 9.95, with one judge giving her a perfect 10.
At the halfway point, Ohio State led the Falcons 98.225-96.550. The third rotation saw the first flashes of nerves from both teams, as Bowling Green moved to balance beam and Ohio State to floor.
After a solid start from freshman Caroline Ellingboe, veteran Megan Valentini came off the beam twice, putting pressure on the rest of the lineup. Sophomore Maria Salvia was next, competing her first routine ever for the Falcons. Salvia hit for a 9.625, before Alyssa Nocella fell on a daring skill of front aerial to two feet. Megan Harrington (9.75) and Ali (9.675) closed out the rotation with solid routines, as Ali debuted a new series of two consecutive back layout stepouts.
The Buckeyes faltered as well, with falls from Alex DeLuca and Melanie Shaffer, along with a scary fall from anchor Maggie Dunn, who nearly landed a double back to her head. Ohio State's errors closed the gap between the two teams, with Bowling Green headed to floor exercise.
With a handful of gymnasts recovering from minor injuries, the Falcons fielded only five athletes on floor. Valentini (9.675), Nocella (9.65) and Gina Locigno (9.65) all hit routines to start, but Harrington over-rotated a double pike mount and the Falcons again counted a fall. Ali, who last year was named Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, anchored with a strong routine that scored 9.8.
Ohio State came through with a solid beam performance to finish well ahead of the Falcons, 194.6-192.2.
Bowling Green is back at home on Saturday, Jan. 12 to host Texas Woman's University. The meet begins at 4 p.m. inside Anderson Arena.