Kent State gymnasts win home opener

Senior Rachel Goldenberg scored an 9.900 on her floor exercise Friday, Jan. 20. The Flashes defeated Eastern Michigan at the M.A.C. Center. Photo by Emily Martin.

Senior Rachel Goldenberg scored an 9.900 on her floor exercise Friday, Jan. 20. The Flashes defeated Eastern Michigan at the M.A.C. Center. Photo by Emily Martin.

Erica Mucci

The Kent State gymnastics team returned to its dominant form against Eastern Michigan in front of an exhilarating home-opening crowd at the M.A.C. Center Friday night.

The Flashes utilized the high-energy crowd and support from their families and friends to get back on track after an unexpected loss to Western Michigan last week.

“It was wonderful to be back in the M.A.C. Center,” junior Lauren Wozniak said. “It was a different energy when we were warming up and it made us more ready to go.”

Visibly more confident and more prepared than last week, the Flashes came out strong in the first two rotations. Impressive routines on the vault and bars allowed them to capture a lead that would stick for the rest of the night.

Senior Rachel Goldenberg started her noteworthy night with a 9.850 on vault to earn herself the top score in that event. Junior Rachel Guida topped the bar competition with an identical 9.850 and the Flashes would end that rotation with a one-point lead.

Kent State coach Brice Biggin said these are the types of performances he expects from his team.

“We know that we’ve got very good vault and bar teams,” Biggin said. “This is the way we should be swinging bars all the time.”

In the third rotation, Kent State ran into some problems on beam, but it would not be enough to let Eastern Michigan ahead.

Biggin said these mistakes could be fixed if the team becomes more relaxed and confident on the apparatus.

“When you are four feet up in the air on four inches, you can’t second guess yourself,” Biggin said. “There’s just no time for it. They are routines they can do, but they get up there and let their minds wonder. They need to start expecting more from themselves.”

The mood lightened when the Flashes hit their floor routines. Biggin said after struggling with the exercise last year, the team came into this year really acknowledging they had to improve.

“We recruited some good floor workers and added some difficulty,” Biggin said. “The girls are starting to show their routines off with power and emotion, and that’s important. It’s probably the event I’ve been most happy with.”

Goldenberg stole the show with an exciting routine that earned her an impressive 9.900, the highest score of the night in any event. She said the event is historically her favorite and she’s happy with the progress she’s made recently.

“Last semester, I really worked hard to make sure I could be a solid person on the floor,” Goldenberg said. “I just want to be able to do that all season long, and I think it’s definitely possible.”

Goldenberg said the event is something the rest of the team is excited about as well.

“It’s about having fun and showing off your routine,” Goldenberg said. “It’s really nice to be at home because there’s so much noise.”

The Flashes defeated the Eagles 194.150-191.050. Freshman Whitnee Johnson took the all-around honors for the second straight meet. Johnson finished tied for fourth on the vault and floor, and fifth on the bars and beam.

As the Flashes prepare to take on conference opponent Ball State Friday, Biggin laughed as he said “lots of beam routines” are on the agenda.

“They’ll be in bright and early Sunday morning,” Biggin said. “They have the ability to be a very good team, but until we get these beam routines fixed, we’re going to struggle.”

Contact Erica Mucci at [email protected].