Flashes look to upset No. 5 Oklahoma

Amanda Vasil

Sophomore Amy Cucinotta performs a routine on the balance beam during the meet on Sunday at the M.A.C. Center. Kent State won 193.950-193.300 over Northern Illinois. The Flashes face No. 5 Oklahoma tonight at 7 p.m. ALLIEY BENDER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Just because the Kent State gymnastics team will face No. 5 nationally ranked Oklahoma tonight, doesn’t mean it’s going to run scared, Kent State coach Brice Biggin said.

“Even though Oklahoma is a great team, this is still our gym, and it’s our home,” Biggin said. “We’re not going to give up just because Oklahoma is coming in. We’re going to certainly fight for everything we can get.”

The Flashes (6-3, 5-1 Mid-American Conference) will compete against the Sooners (8-6, 1-2 Big 12) at 7 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center in Kent State’s final regular season meet.

Kent State is riding a five-MAC meet winning streak and defeated Northern Illinois last weekend 193.950-193.300. Oklahoma is riding a four-meet winning streak, defeating Centenary with victories in all four events and the all-around.

In the team’s last meeting on Jan. 21, 2005, Kent State fell to Oklahoma 194.800-188.475, and the Sooners lead the all-time series 2-0.

This time around, Biggin said the Flashes will not make the same mistakes it did last season.

“We competed down there when we were very beat up and very hurt, and we didn’t do a good job down there,” he said. “We were a little embarrassed of ourselves after that meet. So the goal is that we want to show them that we are a better team.”

Showing Oklahoma they’re a better team may be a challenge for the Flashes because the team suffered a few injuries last weekend. Senior Carrie Mayle injured her back, and sophomore Amy Cucinotta sprained her ankle during practice before the meet.

Mayle is the lone senior on the team this season, and her injury will force her to forego the all-around competition to compete only on the vault and balance beam.

“Obviously it’s a big disappointment to her and to us not to have her in the all-around because it is her last meet, and she’s been part of the success of this year’s team,” Biggin said. “But she’s going to do what she can. She’s been a tough kid her whole career. Two events is better than none. We’ll gladly take it.”

As the last meet of the season, the team will honor Mayle for Senior Night. Despite her injury, the team will go in with a positive mindset, Biggin said.

“It’s always a special day when it’s the senior meet,” Biggin said. “We told the kids to put a little extra in because of Smalls (Mayle). It’s a meet where you honor her, and you do everything you can to make sure she goes out successful.”

Another gymnast was honored earlier this week as sophomore Kristin Peters was named MAC Specialist of the Week for her performance on the uneven bars last weekend. Peters tied her personal-best 9.900 and recorded a career-high 9.825 on the vault, giving her second place.

Biggin said the team will continue to focus on competing at its best, rather than concerning itself with Oklahoma’s performance. Now that the season is coming to a close, the Flashes are looking to make their routines and obtain a score that will qualify them for regional competition.

“(The team’s) ability to stay focused no matter what happens determines ultimately how successful they’re going to be,” he said. “At the end of the meet if (Oklahoma) wins and they’re a better team, then there’s nothing we can do.”

Contact assistant sports editor and gymnastics reporter Amanda Vasil at [email protected].