Every week, coach John Spini talked about how happy he was that his gymnastics team had still not counted a fall this season.
Saturday afternoon, his team had three on its best event, against their rivals and they were on national television.
It was not what the ASU gymnastics team had planned for their trip down to Tucson. The beam event proved catastrophic and the Gym Devils lost handily to No. 15 UA, 196.500-193.850.
The meet was competitive until the last event.
ASU won bars as a team and grad student Kahoku Palafox took individual the event with the meet high score of 9.850.
The Sun Devils also tied their season high on vault and freshman Carissa Kraus got a career high 9.875.
But on beam, the Sun Devils’ performance, just like they had done earlier in the day, went south.
To start off the event, sophomore Natasha Sundby and Palafox fell in almost identical fashion and both earned an identical 9.1.
After Palafox, sophomore Morgan Steigerwalt provided one of two bright spots for the beam team hitting a career high 9.850 and putting together her highest scoring meet of the year.
“I worked a lot on it this last week, because in previous meets, I had been having a lot of trouble on it,” Steigerwalt said. “It was really weird for the team to have this bad of a night, but you just have to push it aside and do your routine and know the rest of the team has your back. That’s as much as I can do for us.”
Meanwhile on floor, UA freshman Jessie Sisler was hitting a career high 9.925 to the roar of the red and blue crowd at The McKale Center.
ASU freshman Risa Perez had a solid routine going after Steigerwalt brought the energy back. But Perez stepped out of bounds and earned a 9.375. Then sophomore Brianna Gades was the third Sun Devil to fall.
While UA senior Aubree Cristello was getting ready to finish off a strong all around meet, ASU sophomore Natelle Gentile was on the beam for the first time this season.
Gentile planned on red shirting, but ended up making her debut as beam anchor during this Territorial Cup, replacing freshman Stephanie Miceli who was out for personal reasons.
“I really hate U of A,” Gentile said. “Last year when we beat them was one of the best moments of my college experience. So I just wanted to get the feeling again, especially anchoring beam, that was all I thought about was beating U of A.”
Towards the middle of Gentile’s routine, she started to fall just like her teammates. But she waved her arms and fought for her balance while Rascal Flatts’ “Stand,” ironically played in the background, the sophomore put up a 9.600.
“When I did my dismount I had tears in my eyes, I was just so happy to be back,” Gentile said.
With such a young team, Steigerwalt said she thought the freshmen didn’t fully understand the rivalry, but she thinks it was a good learning experience for the young ones.
“I think coming in they didn’t really have any idea, like what everything was about, and now that they understand what it’s like to lose to them,” Steigerwalt said. “I hope that we see during practice that it will be some motivation.”
Next week the Gym Devils will head to Denver for a tri-meet against Denver and Illinois State.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com