ASU gymnastics coach John Spini knew he would have to use a lot of freshmen this year, but he didn’t expect to have to use this many so quickly into the season.
During team warmups on vault, sophomore Natelle Gentile broke her nose and had to be taken to the hospital before the meet even began. This is on top of news from earlier this week that top all-around gymnast junior Samantha Seaman would miss two to three weeks. Sophomore Morgan Steigerwalt was also sitting out for precautionary reasons.
With three of their top athletes missing, the Gym Devils (0-1) invariably fell to No. 4 Oklahoma Saturday afternoon by the score of 196.7-193.625.
Oklahoma (2-0) took all four event titles and sophomore Erica Brewer took the all-around with a score of 39.350.
Brewer also scored a career-high 9.925 on Beam right after teammate Brie Olson also scored a career high 9.9 on the Sooners’ strongest event.
After Olson’s dismount, she knew her score would be huge, as she threw a huge fist pump towards the Oklahoma cheering section.
Regardless of the score, Spini was impressed with his young team.
“Out of 24 sets we had, we had probably 12 of those that weren’t starting routines,” Spini said after the meet. “I’m really proud of these kids, and I’ll take a 193.6 starting.”
ASU started on vault with only five gymnasts, but a bright spot was sophomore Natasha Sundby scoring a career-high 9.875 on the second highest vault of the day before falling to Oklahoma junior Madison Mooring, who tied her career high with 9.9.
It’s really exciting,” Sundby said. “I think it’s a very good start, obviously starting with a 9.875, but I know I can only go up from here. So I’m hoping to start here and make improvements each week.”
Sundby’s was even more impressive as the Gym Devils were shorthanded in the event.
“Natasha’s vault was huge for us,” Spini said. “Especially when you just vault five kids and one of them is a layout. We put another 10.0 vault in there, we might have stayed pretty close to them on vault.
ASU looked strong on floor despite freshman Stephanie Miceli falling and
Sundby taking two steps out of bounds.
Sophomore Brianna Gades and freshman Risa Perez had the top scores for the Sun Devils on the event with a 9.825 each.
Perez showed early signs of becoming a crowd favorite with a floor routine overflowing with showmanship that had Wells Fargo Arena the loudest it was all afternoon.
“I think I kicked butt today.” Perez said.
The freshman couldn’t believe how much fun she had in her first meet at the college level.
“Oh my gosh, that was the most incredible feeling,” she said. “I think I’ve been waiting for it for so long coming out of club. It went by really fast, and it was, like, exhilarating. That’s probably the best word I can find for it.”
With a Saturday meet this week and a Friday meet next week, plus a travel day Thursday, it only leaves two practice days for the team.
“What we’re going to do is try and get really healthy and develop better lines and better landings,” Spini said.
The next meet is on Friday, Jan. 18 against Sacramento State and San Jose State at 7 p.m.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com