Nebraska 2017

Jennie Laeng
  • Injured on UB at nationals in 2016
  • Competes most weeks on each event
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.865, VT – 9.855, FX – 9.815, BB – 9.565
Ashley Lambert
  • Perpetually injured
  • Theoretically contributes each event when healthy
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.838, UB – 9.825, BB – 9.742, VT – 9.712
Danielle Breen
  • Added the AA in 2016, all four postseason lineups
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.875, FX – 9.855, UB – 9.835
  • 2016 average: VT – 9.836
Abbie Epperson
  • Transfer from Maryland
  • Competed regularly on UB, BB, FX in 2016
  • Performed weekly VT in 2015
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.840, FX – 9.795, BB – 9.785
Grace Williams
  • Competed near-weekly AA in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.895, UB – 9.875, FX – 9.830, VT – 9.760
Sienna Crouse
  • Frequent VT, FX and end-of-season UB in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.840, VT – 9.760
  • 2016 average: UB – 9.788
Catelyn Orel
  • Will miss 2017 season with injury
  • Occasional routines on all four in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.790, FX – 9.725
Megan Schweihofer
  • Weekly VT, BB in 2016
  • Backup FX
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.840, VT – 9.805
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.790
Kelli Chung
  • Gym-Max
  • Did not compete in first season
Alexa Clark
  • CGI
  • 2016 Colorado state AA champion
Sierra Hassel
  • Triad IA
  • 2016 Iowa state AA 2nd
Taylor Houchin
  • Gold Medal MO
  • 2016 JO National AA champion
Megan Kuo
  • Gym-Max
  • Did not compete in first season
Laura Oh
  • Midwest
  • 2015 Region 4 AA 12th
Kami Shows
  • Did not compete in first season

Recent History
2016 – 8th
2015 – 8th
2014 – 6th
2013 – 14th
2012 – 8th
2011 – 4th
2010 – 7th

Nebraska typically outperforms its preseason ranking. Just something to keep in mind. The Huskers prowl around the lower half of the nationals contenders but only miss nationals in years when they have an extra, extra-talented roster or are hosting the competition. Otherwise, it has been a pretty safe bet, and 8th place is becoming a bit of a trend.

This year should be more of the same in terms of expectations, though there are some potential stumbling blocks to mimicking last year’s result. The Huskers have already suffered a couple injuries that will make filling out lineups more challenging, and they’ll have to find a way to replace four critical, lineup-best routines from Hollie Blanske (putting pressure on freshman Taylor Houchin to be the new star). Because Nebraska is Nebraska and because a few AA stars are capable of carrying this team, I’d still take the Huskers to make nationals, though they will look a likely nominee for the challenging pack to pick off.

Top returners – Laeng (9.855), Breen (9.836), Schweihofer (9.805)
Returning options – Williams (9.760), Crouse (9.760), *Lambert (9.712), *Orel (9.660)

We don’t normally have to worry about Nebraska’s vaulting, but this year, vault looks to be a difficult lineup to fill out since a fairly significant chunk of the team isn’t so much with the vaulting. Normally, Ashley Lambert would be relied upon as chief-in-charge-lady given the 10s she has received in the past, though it appears she’s injured again. Because we can’t have nice things.

That means Nebraska’s vault will be all about Taylor Houchin‘s 1.5. She’ll have to replace Blanske’s 1.5 in the quest to maintain last year’s scores. Beyond that, the Huskers took to be relying on the same five people who made up last year’s vault lineup to do it again this time around. Dani Breen joined the lineup last season with a Yurchenko 1/2 that was among the more realistically Arabian Y1/2s we saw, and I’d bet she got some 10.0 start credit in there. Expect her scores to come down a little bit this year because of the repaired start values. Laeng, Schweihofer, and Crouse show solid amplitude on fulls and should return, and while Grace Williams is not able to vault at her JO level anymore and tends to get some 9.7s, she’s still a useful option to fill out the six in a lineup that should largely recreate last season’s 49.1s but is unlikely to improve on that.

If those six are able to go weekly, it will be OK, but beyond those six, the team has few options. Transfer Abbie Epperson scored well on vault in 2015, but she only competed it in January of 2016 for Maryland and received nothing more than 9.725. For the other freshmen like Clark and Hassel, I’ve only ever seen Yurchenko layouts from them, but hopefully they have something sitting in a back pocket to give Nebraska some lineup buffer.

Top returners – Williams (9.875) Laeng (9.865), Breen (9.835)
Returning options – Crouse (9.788), *Lambert (9.815), *Orel (9.790)

As on vault, Nebraska will be relying primarily on the same gymnasts who were successful last season and hoping for as little change in the lineup as possible. Bars is among the best events, if not the best event, for Williams and Laeng, who can both realistically get up into the 9.9s on occasion. Laeng will also be tasked with erasing our last memory of her bars work, that freaky fall from nationals, because I don’t want to think about it anymore.

Sienna Crouse got into the bars lineup in the middle of last season and contributed solid scores, but I think she’s capable of more than solid based on her JO performances. Bars is her event, and I’d pick her to become a more prominent member of the lineup in 2017. Breen has been a stalwart 9.800-9.850 in that leadoff position throughout her career, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this season. All four of these routines need to return.

For the required two new routines, Taylor Houchin can be very precise on bars and should contribute even though hers is not a big routine, and Abbie Epperson typically got her best scores for Maryland on bars. Bars is Epperson’s most likely and most important contribution to her new team. If she hadn’t transferred to Nebraska, I would be a lot more concerned.

That’s because these six probably need to be the six. Beyond this group, we’re looking at maybe Kami Shows, who was injured last year. Bars is her best piece, and she’s supposedly healthy now. We’ll see if she becomes an option. This is a lineup that could go straight 9.850s on its day because there are some very talented bars workers here, though the worry would be going 9.850, 9.850, 9.850, 9.850, oops we’re out of routines.

Top returners – Williams (9.895), Breen (9.875), Schweihofer (9.840), Laeng (9.565)
Returning options – *Lambert (9.742), *Orel (9.667)

Fewer depth concerns on beam. More falling concerns, sure, but a much heartier number of gymnasts will provide options on beam than on vault or bars this season. Basically all of the healthy, lineup-realistic gymnasts can provide a competition beam routine of some description. Grace Williams has come into her own as a beamer these days and snatched up a whole handful of precious 9.9s last year. Despite Jennie Laeng‘s oddly misleading RQS from last year (she had to count a two-fall 8.400), I put her in the top returners category because she is one, has some of the highest scoring potential on the team, and will be back in this lineup as often as possible.

Breen has become important on every event but received her best scores of any piece last year on beam, and Schweihofer has proven herself smooth and fantastic. The core four will be joined by Houchin, whose split positions on beam are to die for. She needs to be here and could turn into a star for possible 9.9s, but beyond her, we’re not scraping the bottom of the barrel to fill out the group. Crouse didn’t do beam last year yet seems a compelling nominee to add the AA this season. Epperson can struggle with hitting, but she pulled it together for 9.850s toward the end of last season. This is also a more realistic piece for Hassel and Clark, particularly Hassel who has competitive acrobatic skills that should impress. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of options compared to the other events, and if they can put together six who can hit (oh, just that…), beam should stay quite competitive in 2017.

Top returners – Breen (9.855), Crouse (9.845), Williams (9.830)Returning options – Laeng (9.815), Schweihofer (9.790), *Lambert (9.838), *Orel (9.725)

On floor, we return to the depth issues of vault and bars to some extent, but maybe not with quite the same degree of stress. Coming up with enough 9.9s, however, will be a concern since the lineup regularly relied on a 9.900 from Blanske in 2016 to get into the 49.2s. Someone else has to take up that mantle because while 49.1 might get by on the other events, its just not competitive enough on floor when trying for a total more than a low-mid 196.

It may be tough to find that missing 9.9+ because this is not a BIG E PASS team. It’s a double pike, double tuck, twisty-elements team. They’ll need to be clean and controlled because they’re not smashing anyone in the face with difficulty. Williams, Laeng, Breen, and Schweihofer will all go the respect-my-chest-position-on-this-double-pike route and should feature in the lineup. I was a bit surprised that Schweihofer didn’t make the final six for Nebraska last year because she got some solid scores and had one of the most comfortably completed double pikes, but the rest of the routine didn’t always follow. As on the other pieces, I’d expect Houchin to come in and join the group of mainstays.

E-pass value will be provided by Sienna Crouse and Abbie Epperson with front 2/1s, which ultimately gives Nebraska seven useful and realistic floor options. Alexa Clark also has a complement of twisty skills that could make floor her most likely contribution to the team. That should be all the routines they need, and if it ends up not being all the routines they need, floor won’t be the biggest concern.

If it were another team, there would be sirens. Only six likely routines on vault and bars? How do you go on??? But this is just sort of the way things are for Nebraska, and we have seen many seasons in the past where the Huskers got by and ultimately had a successful finish in spite of a dearth of actual routines and a tightrope of depth.

Certainly it’s a precarious situation, and the possibility of dropping a 9.9 or two from last year’s slate of routine exists, but if everything works out, Nebraska does have that small collection of all-arounders in Williams, Breen, Laeng, Crouse, and Houchin who could carry the load for respectable, nationals-contending scores.

One thought on “Nebraska 2017”

  1. Just a heads up on some notable upgrades after watching their intrasquad! Jennie Laeng is doing a Yurchenko 1.5 along with a possible few more 10.0 sv vaults from some of the sophomores and Megan Schweihofer added a double layout on floor along with changing her middle pass to Hollie Blanske’s middle pass.

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