Potential Lineups: Nebraska

By Caroline Medley


Today we’ll take a look at the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who finished the regular 2016 season ranked 12th. Though the team only loses two seniors, Hollie Blanske and Madison McConkey contributed some key routines and could be hard to replace. But if all its gymnasts are healthy, and it utilizes its newcomers well, Nebraska may just be able to do it.

Vault will see the loss of Blanske, who competed the team’s only 10.0 vault, the Yurchenko 1.5. Sienna Crouse, Jennie Laeng, Ashley Lambert, Catelyn Orel, Megan Schweihofer and Grace Williams will all return fulls, and Danielle Breen will bring back her Yurchenko half. Maryland transfer Abbie Epperson will also bring in a solid full, but she’ll need to clean up her landing if she wants to contend with the other veterans. Incoming freshman Alexa Clark has been training a Yurchenko full for some time, so she may be gunning for a lineup spot. But the biggest freshman story at Nebraska will be Taylor Houchin. She placed first in her subdivision at J.O. nationals this year and tied for second on vault with her 1.5. She’ll definitely be a great asset to the Husker team.

On bars, both seniors contributed to the lineup on and off last season, but six veterans will still return with strong routines. Breen, Crouse, Laeng, Lambert, Orel and Williams all scored 9.85 or better last
season, so bars ought to be a strong event for the Huskers this season. Epperson also brings a nice bar set, with near-perfect handstands and a solid Jaeger. Houchin has a clean routine that could sneak her into the lineup, and though she hasn’t competed bars in a year, Sierra Hassel earned second place at level 10 regionals in 2014. Her clean piked Jaeger and stick-straight double layout dismount would earn high scores

in college competition if she can bring her routine back up to her former level.

Again, both Blanske and McConkey will leave holes on beam not just in score but in consistency. Between the two of them, they only had three falls over the course of the 2016 season. Six mainstay gymnasts will return to the lineup: Breen, Laeng, Lambert, Orel, Schweihofer and Williams. Four of those six are capable of scoring 9.9 or better, and between them, they averaged less than one fall per gymnast. Epperson could potentially make a run for the beam lineup, but she would need to work on her consistency. She never scored above a 9.85 last season and fell three times. If she can stay on the beam, she could be a real contender. Freshmen Clark, Hassel and Houchin could all possibly contribute as well, with Houchin being the likeliest of the three. Her clean, long lines will serve her well in college competition. Redshirt freshman Megan Kuo could also be a dark horse contender. She competed a few exhibition routines last season showcasing a Wevers-esque side aerial to side aerial series and some excellent dance elements. Unfortunately, she was never able to truly connect her series and had some form breaks in her jumps, so she never made a lineup. If she can clean up her execution and get a solid series, she could definitely be an asset to the Nebraska beam squad.

Both seniors were also key contributors on floor, especially Blanske, who hit 9.9 or higher more often than not. She also had one of the team’s few E passes, a double layout. Crouse and Lambert will return E passes with a front double twist and double layout, respectively. Breen, Laeng, Orel, Schweihofer

and Williams all also contributed throughout the 2016 season, all scoring 9.85 or higher at some point. Epperson too scored 9.85 a few times last year and can also contribute a front double twist. All four freshmen could also make a run for the floor lineup: Clark, Hassel, Houchin and Laura Oh. Clark’s clean twisting form could definitely put her on the map, and Houchin’s powerful tumbling will definitely help her case.

Oh’s precise leaps and dramatic dance could give her an edge, and Hassel also has the potential to contribute yet another front double twist. With four E passes, Nebraska would have twice as many gymnasts competing at the highest difficulty level as it did last season. It’ll definitely be stiff competition for those lineup spots this year, but too much talent is a problem coach Dan Kendig will be glad to have.

In the all around, several gymnasts will be contending for the opportunity. Last season, six gymnasts competed all around at different points in the season, and of those, only Blanske has graduated. Breen, Laeng, Lambert, Orel and Williams will all be vying for the honor once more, and with so much new talent on the table, it’s likely that not all of them will be chosen. Focusing on turning their weak events into strengths would be an excellent way to make their cases. Breen has the least difficult vault of anyone in the lineup, so she may consider upgrading if she wants to make the all around a priority. Laeng doesn’t necessarily have a weak event, she just has a consistency issue. Working on her mental game might serve her well, once she’s fully healed from her devastating injury at nationals. Lambert, too, will hope to be fully healthy again by the start of the season. She didn’t compete very much last year due to a nagging injury, but hopefully the time she took to heal will have her back to full strength. Orel will want to focus on beam, where she only competed four routines last season and only hit two of them. And Williams will want to capitalize on her strengths on bars and beam and work on cleaning up her vault. She often got stuck in the 9.75 range last season, whether due to landings or form in the air. Epperson competed all around at Maryland a few times, but her weakness is definitely vault as well. Her high score on vault was a 9.725, which won’t cut it in a Nebraska lineup. And freshman Houchin will be nipping at everyone’s heels with her high difficulty and clean execution. She too could use some improvement on her weaker events, bars and floor, where her execution is solid but her difficulty is relatively low compared to her vault and beam. Who competes all around will likely be a week-to-week decision for the Huskers until they figure out who really has the mental game and stamina for it. Coach Kendig will surely have a lot of key decisions on his plate this year.

Stop by again tomorrow to check out our next installment on the Ohio State Buckeyes! If you like playing the lineup guessing game too, check out our potential lineups page here, our previous series here, or any of our previous Big 10 articles:

Illinois | Iowa | Maryland | Michigan | Minnesota

Feel free to leave us a comment or Tweet us about any other teams you’d like to see covered. We promise to finish Big 10 before moving on to any other teams!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.