By Caroline Medley
We are back with our Big 10 potential lineup analysis series! Today we take a look at the Penn State Nittany Lions, who will be looking to improve on their 25th place finish in the 2016 regular season. Losing no seniors and gaining three solid freshmen, their depth should easily increase, but they’ll need more than that to crack the top 20.
On vault, the Lions should return two 10.0 start value vaults. Briannah Tsang has a stellar Yurchenko 1.5 that earned her a 9.9 last year, and now that she’s healthy, Emma Sibson should return her handspring pike half as well. In addition, Kiera Brown, Sabrina Garcia, Mason Hosek, Jessica Jones, Gianna LaGuardia, Chanen Raygoza and Oni Timothy will all be expected to return Yurchenko fulls. However, none of them scored above a 9.875 all season. So if the team wants to up their vault scores, they’re going to want to clean things up. The biggest issue is form on landings — a lot of gymnasts are piking down early to try to stick. Focusing on height in the block will give them more time to finish their twist, and then they can go for the stick. Incoming freshmen Kristen Politz and Mikayla Waddell should also expect to contend for lineup spots with their fulls. Both are former state or regional vault champions, so they could definitely surprise come January.
Bars will see the return of six regular contributors: Brown, Garcia, Jones, Raygoza, Tsang and Nicole Medvitz. All of them regularly scored in the 9.75-9.85 range and were fairly consistent, though all of them could raise those scores with some finer attention to detail. Freshman Tess McCracken could also hope for a lineup spot with her long lines and powerful Tkachev. Here, the Lions only have seven potential contributors (maybe eight as LaGuardia made a few lineups, though inconsistently) to fill six slots. If anyone gets injured, bars could potentially be a tight event for Penn State.
Far more depth will be available to the team on beam. Brown, Garcia, Hosek, Jones, Medvitz, Raygoza and Tsang should all expect to return lineup-worthy routines. However, each of these gymnasts had at least one fall on the event last season, and there was a very telling pattern to their falls. Typically, if one
on beam in her 2015 J.O. season, even with a difficult double wolf turn and switch leap to back tuck combination. Waddell doesn’t just have confidence, she oozes it. Her quickness on the beam is remarkable, particularly given the number of skills she squeezes in and the level of difficulty she achieves in her routine. She could definitely be a force this year for the Lions.
On floor, PSU again should have a lot of depth. Brown, Garcia, Hosek, Jones, Sibson, Timothy, Tsang and Peyton Schuller all contributed to last season’s lineup at different points. The Lions are lucky to already have three E passes in their wheelhouse: a full in from Timothy, a double arabian from Tsang
rewarded as highly. Brown and Garcia, while key all arounders for the team, were both stuck in the 9.8 area for most of the season, though they both topped out at 9.9 at later meets. Hosek and Jones both had season highs of 9.85, but most of their scores were in the 9.7s. PSU is again going to have to find a way to take these good scores and turn them into great ones.
Last season, the Lions relied on Tsang, Brown and Garcia for regular all around appearances. This year, it seems likely that each of them will return to that role, based on the depth and leadership positions to fill on each event. Jones also had the all around opportunity in her last few meets but with mixed results. In the four weeks she competed all four, she fell three times. However, she did quite well when she didn’t fall. She even tied Brown for the AA title at the meet against Arizona State last March. If she can get her mental game going strong and keep her consistency up, she too could have a shot at the all around.
That’s it for today! Check back tomorrow when we’ll take a look at the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers! Check our potential lineups page here, our previous lineup analysis series here or any of our previous Big 10 posts:
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