The Tigers move into last regular season meet still looking to qualify for NCAA
The Tigers started the competition on the Vault, posting a team score of 48.625. Freshman Rachel Henderson began the rotation with a 9.500 and sophomore Laura Kappler followed, scoring a 9.675. Freshman Miranda Eubank and senior Tori Howard competed solid vaults, producing scores of 9.750 and 9.800, respectively. Sophomore Rachel Updike then posted a 9.900 to win the event title. However, Illinois won this rotation with a team score of 48.900.
Mizzou suffered a major blow when Updike was taken out of the meet after this event to ice her foot.
“(Her injury) flared up again on vault and we didn’t want to do anything to make it worse and lose her for the rest of the season,” coach Rob Drass said.
One gymnast down, Missouri moved on to the Uneven Bars. Senior Sandra Ostad led off the rotation, earning a 9.075 after a slip during her dismount. Kappler competed next, posting a score of 9.675 and junior Mackenzie McGill followed, scoring a career-high 9.850. Eubank fell during her routine to earn a 9.275 and junior Taylor Medrea finished off the rotation with a score of 9.775. MU earned a team score of 47,650, but Illinois again earned a higher team score of 49.025.
Drass said the Uneven Bars have been one of the team’s strongest events all year, but with Updike out of the line-up everyone was a little shaken.
“We were caught off guard on bars with Updike sitting out, but the girls kept fighting and did their best,” he said.
After a shaky first half, the Tigers had to make up ground on their last two events. They moved on to the Balance Beam, where they posted a 48.800 total. Kappler was the first Tiger to compete, earning a 9.625 with her routine. Medrea performed a solid routine to post a career-high score of 9.775. Junior Cathryn Aliceaacosta and Howard competed next, scoring 9.750 and 9.800, respectively. McGill competed last and was awarded a 9.850. Illinois responded with a team score of 49.175.
Missouri moved on to its last event of the night, the Floor Exercise, where the team posted 49.050, its highest Floor score of the season. Medrea began the high-scoring rotation with a routine earning her a 9.800. Aliceaacosta and Ostad followed with scores of 9.800 and 9.825, respectively. Eubank posted a 9.725 with her routine and Howard posted a career-high 9.900 to end the meet for the Tigers. But Illinois edged out the Tigers with a team score of 49.200.
Howard said finishing her floor routine and saluting the judge on Senior Night was very emotional for her.
“Being able to finish on such a strong note after working so hard on the event was great,” she said.
The two seniors and Medrea received long hugs after their floor performances from all their teammates. At the end of their routines, they let their emotions finally show, tearing up as they walked off the Hearnes Center floor for the last time in their collegiate careers.
While Medrea is only a junior, but she will not compete next year due to injuries.
“It was doctor’s orders,” she said. “It will be best for my future. I’ve accepted it, but it’s still hard to say good-bye.”
Drass said he knows it was hard for the girls to keep their emotions under control, but they have not finished the season yet. With one more meet to go, the team is still working toward a spot at the NCAA championships in April. Drass said he believes they have a chance, but they need to keep working hard.
“(NCAA) only takes 36 teams and we’re 37 right now. We’re right on that bubble,” he said.
The Tigers will travel to Tucson next week to take on No. 16 Arizona in their last regular season competition on March 16 at 5 p.m.