University Park Regional Preview

April 7, 4:00 ET, Penn State University

Qualifying to nationals: Top 2 teams, top 2 all-arounders not on advancing teams, any event winners not on advancing teams

Teams (starting event)
[5] Florida (floor)
[8] Washington (beam)
[17] Arizona State (bye before floor)
[27] West Virginia (bye before bars)
[29] Penn State (bars)
[30] New Hampshire (vault)

Individual competitors
Jacey Baldovino, Yale (AA)
Jade Buford, Yale (AA)
Kelsey Campbell, Bridgeport (AA)
Libby Groden, Rutgers (AA)
Sahara Gipson, Temple (VT)
Jaylene Everett, Temple (VT)
Jessica Wang, Yale (UB)
Kelli Tereshko, Bridgeport (UB)
Makenzey Shank, Rutgers (BB)
Kathryn Doran, Bridgeport (BB)
Maya Reimers, Bridgeport (FX)
Alex Hartke, Penn (FX)

The favorite

It hasn’t been quite the season expected of Florida so far, but Florida should nonetheless have this regional locked down. At SECs, we saw the Gators go 196.825 in a meet that included a counting fall, a score that would also be high enough to advance out of this regional. That means Florida doesn’t need to have figured out floor yet to get to nationals, but also yeah you do because it’s floor and come on.

Lost in Florida’s counting a fall on floor at SECs were the other three rotations, events where Florida performed at an excellent level that would have won the conference title and would have been a “Florida’s a thing again!” moment if maintained for all four pieces. That level reflected a definite step up from what we saw most of the regular season—particularly on beam. Of course, none of that mattered because of the weak floor rotation, something that cannot be dismissed just as “one of those things” because it’s not the first time that has happened in recent weeks. It’s two of the last three meets now, and it’s not even beam. Florida is having much more trouble filling out a competitive floor lineup in the post-Baker era than expected.

This is not for lack of options. Boren, Baumann, McMurtry, Slocum, Foberg, Gowey, Skaggs, Hundley, McLaughlin. More than enough strong gymnasts to be competitive. But which ones? Florida still has to figure out its best six and ensure that it’s not simply a lineup that can hit, but a lineup that starts at 9.850 (at least) and goes up from there because that’s what it will take to contend. “Hitting floor” is not the goal here. Winning nationals is the goal here. When those are your expectations, a hit for 9.775 is basically a fall—because neither is going to get it done. Lately, Florida has really had only the one definite 9.9 in the lineup, Boren. And that’s a problem.

This dynamic adds a little extra intrigue to Florida’s floor performance in the first rotation of this regional, but it’s weird intrigue because…it’s floor. Why are we even talking about whether Florida is going to hit floor? There’s no reason that rotation should be even in the vicinity of worrisome. It’s going to be fine. But will it though?

The fight

The second spot is Washington’s to lose. Washington outscores Arizona State most weeks, has gone into the 197s four times, and has five meet scores this season higher than ASU’s best. At the same time, this thing is close enough to be alive, and Washington will not feel completely comfortable heading in, especially after Pac-12s. Arizona State finished just three tenths behind Washington at Pac-12s, and that was with Washington performing in the evening session and Arizona State in the afternoon. The margin was just a half-tenth or so on most events, which is far too slim to be ignored.

The quality difference between the two teams throughout the season has been built mostly on depth. Arizona State is almost there but still must endure a few gaps in the lineups—ending vault with a tucked full that needs to be dropped, opening rotations with some 9.750s—that Washington doesn’t have. Washington has the luxury of counting its sixth-best routine if need be, which means Washington doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect to get an advancing score. Arizona State sort of does, since it should take a fairly serious 196 to get out of this one.

Qualifying is still very possible for ASU, and that being the case speaks to the tremendous strides Arizona State has made in an extremely short period of time. It was just two years ago that ASU found itself trapped in the center of Dr. Rene’s Labyrinth for 51st place, and now we’re looking at a 2018 season that should be the team’s best since the Ashley Kelly and Maggie Germaine years. It’s a victory already, but making this meet an actual victory and not just a “great improvement!” emotional victory is a project dependent on the possible 9.9ies all delivering their 9.9s. We know Arizona State will put up some 9.7s, so those 9.7s must be counterbalanced by Leonard-Baker bringing her best sticks on vault, bars, and floor, and those better beamers Kuhm, Ashley Szafranski, and Callis being at their most secure. That’s how ASU gets into the 196s and puts itself in a position to take advantage of mistakes.

The first rotation of this one should tell us much because not only will Florida be on floor but Washington will be on beam as well, beam being Washington’s best event and the event most likely to provide a big advantage over ASU. If Washington hits for 49.3-49.4 in that first rotation, it’s tough to see the other teams breaking through.

The spoilers

West Virginia, Penn State, and New Hampshire all have their moments and all have little cracks they can wriggle through to possibly make this thing interesting—whether its West Virginia excelling on vault in a relatively vault-weak regional, Penn State having that tremendous Bridgens-Garcia-Tsang punch at the end of its bars lineup, or New Hampshire having those prime anchor sets from Mulligan and Lauter and an unexpectedly powerful (and underrated) floor lineup.

All three are “if they do this, this, and this, I could see it…” teams, especially Penn State as the host and with Bridgens and Tsang potentially bringing some of the highest-scoring routines in the whole meet. The reason all three teams are ranked outside the seeded spots and enter this meet as clear underdogs is that they haven’t shown the four complete events to get those 196s consistently. To be in this one, West Virginia will have to get through both bars and beam with 49s, which has happened just twice this year (two of the last three meets). Penn State will have to survive that heart-attack-inducing beam rotation that has been sub-48.5 on five occasions this year. New Hampshire will have to vault its way out of the 9.7s somehow and avoid a bout of early-9.6-itis.

There are challenges, but on the occasions in which these teams have endured the potential lava pits dotting their respective repertoires, they have scored hearty 196s. As is the case for Arizona State, a real 196 makes any team a contender here should Washington falter.

Individuals
If Florida and Washington go through as the two teams, then the favorites for the all-around spots will be Cairo Leonard-Baker (#15) and Briannah Tsang (#26) who have the four-event scores, with fingers crossed for beam, to get a competitive total that would be difficult to match for the other AAers in the competition.

The most likely challengers would be their teammates, Anne Kuhm (#36) and Lauren Bridgens (#37), who should get pretty close to them with hit meets but may not have the lineup position and four-event bigness to force their way in. Still, Kuhm’s all-around performances have been on the rise lately, finishing just .025 behind Leonard-Baker at Pac-12s, so keep her very much in mind in the AA race.

Whether we have other challengers will depend on whether it’s a good beam day, as both Zaakira Muhammad (#85) and Sabrina Garcia (#94) have some tremendous events but will need to not only make the beam lineup but also (you know) hit to get into this race. New Hampshire will often put forward Danielle Doolin in the all-around, but she did not vault at EAGLs so we’ll have to wait and see if she’s in the hunt.

If Washington doesn’t qualify as a team, then put Hailey Burleson (#23) right toward the top of the list of individual contenders in place of whoever does go as a team.

Rotation-by-rotation RQS

Rot 1 – N Hampshire VT, Penn St UB, Washington BB, Florida FX
1. Florida – 49.420
2. Washington – 49.345
3. Penn State – 49.275
4. New Hampshire – 48.910

This rotation is mostly about Washington trying to get that big beam score, which would mitigate the influence of Penn State’s best event and start developing a total that cannot be matched by the 3-6 teams. Penn State pretty much needs to be second at this point. Also Florida floor.

Rot 2 – Florida VT, W Virginia UB, Penn St BB, Arizona St FX
1. Florida – 98.865
2. Penn State – 98.130
3. Washington – 49.345
4. Arizona State – 49.185
5. West Virginia – 48.920
6. New Hampshire – 48.910

Both West Virginia and New Hampshire begin on weak-scoring events for them that must end up over 49 for those teams to be in contention.

Rot 3 – Arizona St FX, N Hampshire UB, W Virginia BB, Washington FX
1. Florida – 98.865
2. Washington – 98.695
3. Arizona State – 98.250
4. Penn State – 98.130
5. New Hampshire – 97.955
6. West Virginia – 97.930

Washington sitting closer to Florida than to Arizona State at this point would be bad news for those rooting for an interesting regional.

Rot 4 – Washington VT, Florida UB, New Hampshire BB, Penn St FX
1. Florida – 148.340
2. Washington – 147.800
3. Penn State – 147.300
4. New Hampshire – 147.125
5. Arizona State – 98.250
6. West Virginia – 97.930

The fourth rotation is a big one for Penn State. Home floor is home floor, even if it doesn’t come at the end of the meet. If PSU is in this thing, or not, this is when we’ll know for sure.

Rot 5 – Penn St VT, Arizona St UB, Florida BB, W Virginia FX
1. Florida – 197.780
2. Penn State – 196.330
3. Washington – 147.800
4. Arizona State – 147.415
5. New Hampshire – 147.125
6. West Virginia – 147.110

Penn State would absolutely take a 196.3, the kind of score that would be high enough to take advantage of a mistake. Arizona State would have to be ahead of Washington at this point heading to the final event to have a real shot. I wouldn’t expect ASU to make up more than the smallest inch of ground in the final rotation.

Rot 6 – W Virginia VT, Washington UB, Arizona St BB, New Hampshire FX
1. Florida – 197.780
2. Washington – 197.020
3. Arizona State – 196.550
4. Penn State – 196.330
5. West Virginia – 196.255
6. New Hampshire – 196.190

Event RQS inverts the rankings of Penn State and West Virginia, which coupled with Penn State’s host status, should tell us to be more wary of PSU’s upset chances in this one than the overall rankings suggest.

The event RQSs also tell us that this thing should be pretty open-and-shut for the top two spots should Florida and Washington hit. We’ll see.

By the numbers

[1] Florida
RQS: 197.390 [1]
Season high: 198.150 [1]
Season average: 197.170 [1]

VT RQS: 49.445 [1]
VT average: 49.345 [1]
UB RQS: 49.470 [1]
UB average: 49.361 [1]
BB RQS: 49.440 [1]
BB average: 49.291 [1]
FX RQS: 49.420 [1]
FX average: 49.173 [2]

[2] Washington
RQS: 196.960 [2]
Season high: 197.400 [2]
Season average: 196.571 [2]

VT RQS: 49.105 [3]
VT average: 49.025 [3]
UB RQS: 49.220  [3]
UB average: 49.121 [2]
BB RQS: 49.345 [2]
BB average: 49.183 [2]
FX RQS: 49.350 [2]
FX average: 49.242 [1]

[3] Arizona State
RQS: 196.545 [3]
Season high: 196.800 [3]
Season average: 196.042 [3]

VT RQS: 49.065 [4]
VT average: 48.983 [4]
UB RQS: 49.165 [4]
UB average: 49.021 [3]
BB RQS: 49.135 [4]
BB average: 48.933 [3]
FX RQS: 49.185 [3]
FX average: 49.104 [3]

[4] West Virginia
RQS: 196.070 [4]
Season high: 196.775 [4]
Season average: 195.631 [4]

VT RQS: 49.145 [2]
VT average: 49.033 [2]
UB RQS: 48.920 [6]
UB average: 48.763 [6]
BB RQS: 49.010 [5]
BB average: 48.819 [5]
FX RQS: 49.180 [4]
FX average: 49.017 [4]

[5] Penn State
RQS: 195.985 [5]
Season high: 196.675 [5]
Season average: 195.510 [5]

VT RQS: 49.030 [5]
VT average: 48.933 [5]
UB RQS: 49.275 [2]
UB average: 49.008 [4]
BB RQS: 48.855 [6]
BB average: 48.598 [6]
FX RQS: 49.170 [5]
FX average: 48.971 [5]

[6] New Hampshire
RQS: 195.940 [6]
Season high: 196.425 [6]
Season average: 195.302 [6]

VT RQS: 48.910 [6]
VT average: 48.800 [6]
UB RQS: 49.045 [5]
UB average: 48.819 [5]
BB RQS: 49.170 [3]
BB average: 48.917 [4]
FX RQS: 49.065 [6]
FX average: 48.765 [6]

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3 thoughts on “University Park Regional Preview”

  1. I never would have thought before season started that I’d be here going into regionals saying “Please, oh please Florida, just hit 24 for 24 on the road for once.” But here we are. Watching them this season has been frustrating to say the least.

    On a happier note, before this season I definitely wouldn’t have thought that the possibility of ASU going to nationals would actually be in the conversation. It’s still a long shot, but that fact that it’s even a slight possibility is a testament to how much this team has improved this year. I saw them when they were at WVU, which was the first time they scored 196 and made everyone start to notice them. It’s going to be really cool to see them again on Saturday. It feels like everything has come full circle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love for ASU to go to Nationals, but the ONLY way is if the two qualifying teams area Washington and ASU. Washington needs to go to nationals.

      Like

  2. I’m gunning 100% for ASU! If that pans out, I don’t care who the second team is, I’ll be over the moon. I wouldn’t hate it if Florida and Washington if they pull out what looks to be the somewhat inevitable- enjoy both teams! But I’ll be very disappointed if ASU doesn’t get at least an individual who qualifies.

    Like

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