LIVE BLOG: No. 43 Ball State at No. 27 West Virginia

Welcome to March, everyone! This regular season has flown by, and we’re less than two weeks away from conference championship Saturday. That leaves very few opportunities for teams to improve their NQS and clinch a spot at regionals. Both Ball State and West Virginia are in the fight, with the Cardinals just on the outside of the top 36 and the Mountaineers firmly in qualifying position. Ball State needs a strong score on the road to improve its chances, while West Virginia will look to continue its upward climb. It’s also senior day for the Mountaineers, where they will honor Esperanza Abarca, Kendra Combs and Rachel Hornung.

Last week, Ball State posted its second-highest road score of the season, a 195.100 at Northern Illinois. The Cardinals were led by Suki Pfister, who captured the vault title with a 9.850 for her beautiful pike front half. Pfister is Ball State’s highest-ranked individual, coming in at No. 31 in the national vault rankings. Her contributions have helped the Cardinals capture three of the top eight scores in program history in 2022, including a program-record 196.325 just two weeks ago. This afternoon’s competition will offer the opportunity for Ball State to raise its NQS by dropping its only remaining score in the 194s. It will be vital for the Cardinals to do so if they want to make a run at the postseason.

West Virginia is coming off a quality win against North Carolina, and its third straight score of 196 or above. The Mountaineers posted a season-high 49.225 on beam to close out the meet, and junior Abbie Pierson earned a 9.925 to win the event. Senior Kendra Combs captured the floor title with a 9.925, adding to her career-best performances from February 21. During that tri-meet, Combs set personal best marks on vault (9.850), floor (9.950) and in the all around (39.325), earning the first Big 12 Gymnast of the Week honors for West Virginia since 2017. Watch for her and the rest of WVU’s eleventh-ranked floor lineup to post some big scores today.

A win for Ball State would be exciting, but both teams are likely focused on remaining consistent as we reach the end of the regular season. Can the Cardinals produce a strong effort today and raise their ranking in time to make regionals? Can the Mountaineers keep the momentum going and crack the top 25? It’s almost time to find out!

Ball state tentative lineups

West Virginia lineups: Vault Bars Beam Floor

West Virginia’s look for today

Update post-meet: WVU freshman Anna Leigh is in a boot after her injury last week, and did not compete today.

Rotation 1: West Virginia VT, Ball State UB

Yancey (WVU): Nice Yurchenko full. Hop back on landing and a tiny bit of pike in the air. Good start! 9.725

Elsadek (BSU): Nice opening handstand, legs come apart on Maloney to Pak combo, good final handstand, big air on the half in half out with a hop forward. 9.775

Alban (WVU): Another good Yurchenko full. Not as much pop off the table as Yancey’s, but a smaller hop back. 9.725

Sumner (BSU): Opens with a Maloney to Pak, beautiful form there. Legs come apart in the blind full and a tiny shuffle of the feet after the double tuck dismount. Strong routine. 9.775

Lewis (WVU): Great Yurchenko full! Just a tiny foot movement, but great form in the air. 9.825

Ruthberg (BSU): Ray done cleanly, short on the handstand afterward, a bit loose in the back on the low bar pirouette, hits the dismount with a step. 9.750

Hornung (WVU): Clean Yurchenko full. Pikes down on landing but just a small hop back. 9.825

Evans (BSU): Piked Yaeger caught well, short on the next handstand, good transitions, hits the final handstand, full pirouette on top of the bar, just a small hop back on the double tuck dismount. 9.800

Pierson (WVU): Big one and a half with a large step forward. She explodes off the table. 9.825

Teter (BSU): Big Tkatchev to bail, swinging aggressively, up to the high bar with a good final handstand, sticks the double front dismount! Great routine! 9.850

Fletcher (WVU): Season debut! Full on to back tuck off with a step back. That must feel great! 9.775

Henry (BSU): Feed cuts off the first part of her routine, we see a good half pirouette to double front dismount with a small step forward. Nice form on the double front. 9.750

AFTER ONE: West Virginia 48.975, Ball State 48.950

It’s a close one after a strong start for both teams. West Virginia competed several clean Yurchenko fulls, and it was great to see Gillian Fletcher make her debut with a unique full on back tuck. Ball State hit its handstands and showed routines packed with difficulty. The Cardinals will hope to keep the momentum in the next rotation to put themselves in good position for a strong road score.

Rotation 2: Ball State VT, West Virginia UB

Ostendorf (BSU): Nice Yurchenko full. Good form in the air, a bit of pike down and a hop back. 9.725

Hornung (WVU): Nice straddled Yaeger, a tiny bit short on most of the handstands, but it might just be the camera angle. Bends knees slightly in the final half pirouette, but nails the double tuck dismount! 9.750

Elsadek (BSU): Big Yurchenko full with a BIG hop back. Can’t control the power this time. 9.700

Yancey (WVU): Floats the Pak to low bar, leg separation on the Maloney half, short on the final handstand, sticks the double layout dismount! 9.825

Pfister (BSU): Beautiful piked front half! Just the tiniest hop back, but huge power and great form in the air. 9.875

Combs (WVU): Maloney to Pak, big leg separation on both skills, a bit crooked on the full pirouette, but just a tiny step on the double tuck. 9.750

Schweikert (BSU):Clean Yurchenko half with a step forward. Nice power and great form in the air. Completely straight body. 9.800

Holmes-Hackerd (WVU): Good first handstand, piked Yaeger way too close and has to take a couple extra swings with a form break, hits the bail and the full pirouette, just a small step on the double back dismount. Not connecting the Yager to bail will hurt her start value. 9.350

Ruthberg (BSU): Clean Yurchenko full, just a hop back. 9.825

Alban (WVU): Big leg separation on the Geinger but hitting handstands well, clean form in the double layout with a nearly stuck landing. 9.750

Henry (BSU): Big one and a half with a step forward. 9.825

Abarca (WVU): Perfect first handstand, good full pirouette, form break on the Geinger, good final pirouette, just a small hop back on the double back dismount! Great routine for the senior. 9.825

Rotation 2 Scores: Ball State 49.050, West Virginia 48.900

AFTER TWO: Ball State 98.000, West Virginia 97.875

West Virginia survived the scare in the fourth spot with two solid bars routines, putting up a solid 48.900 to be just under 196 pace at the half. Ball State displayed great power and form on its vaults to post the first 49-plus of the day and take the lead with a solid 98-even. The Cardinals should be very proud with how their first two rotations have gone – they’re well on their way to raising their NQS. It’s still a close one as we head into rotation three! It will be critical for the Mountaineers to hit beam, because we know they can battle back on floor in the last rotation.

Rotation 3: West Virginia BB, Ball State FX

Handono (WVU): Nice bhs loso series to start, no wobble. Good full turn. Front toss connected to a beat jump. Short of split position on the switch leap to split jump, but no wobble. Finishes with a side aerial to tucked full, stuck. Fantastic way to start! 9.800

Elsadek (BSU): Front through to double back, a step forward but not very under rotated. Front full to front tuck, well-controlled there. Double pike to finish, knees buckle on landing but escapes with a large step back. Difficult tumbling for a lead off! 9.700

Pierson (WVU): Standing front tuck to bhs, slow connection but no balance issues. Nice straddle side. Standing layout stepout into a layout full, good landing! She has so much power on beam. Judges are conferencing, probably deciding whether to count her series as connected. Looks like they didn’t give it to her. 9.525

Waldo (BSU): Punch front double to front tuck, plenty of power and a controlled landing. Hits the positions in the leap pass. Front full front layout front tuck, another clean pass. Finishes with a punch Rudi, front foot slides back on landing. 9.750

Hornung (WVU): Wolf turn to start. Front aerial into a one-arms bhs, wobble on the first skill but should still make the connection. Nice form on the leaps. One and a half dismount with a step forward. 9.750

Ostendorf (BSU): Big double pike to start, nice controlled lunge to stay in bounds. Front layout to Rudi, hops out of the landing a tiny bit but stays in bounds again. Hits the leap pass well. Double back to finish, great landing! Probably the best routine for the Cardinals so far. 9.775

Combs (WVU): Front aerial to back tuck, no problems there. Full turn done well. Cat leap to switch side, another strong landing. Front toss no problem. Finishes with a front full off the end, a tiny bit of knee bend in the air and a hop forward. Strong beam routine for the senior! 9.850

Cooper (BSU): A bit too much power on the double tuck and bounces out of the landing, but nothing major. Front full to front pike, great form in the air and no landing trouble. Hits the leap pass well. Punch double twist to finish! Some crossed feet and knee bend in the air, and a bit under rotated, but controls the landing. 9.850

Holmes-Hackerd (WVU): Front aerial to back tuck, tiny wobble on the back tuck but nothing major. Short of split position on the switch leap, nails the back tuck. Gainer full off the side, nearly sticks the landing. 9.800

Teter (BSU): Front layout to front full, great form and controlled landing. Double back second pass, front foot slides back on landing. Falls out of the tour jete half. Great form on the front full front layout and a controlled landing. 9.750

Asper (WVU): Bhs loso loso series, no problems on the landing. Short of split positions on both leaps. Great full turn. Sticks the one and a half dismount to finish! A great anchor performance to drop the earlier low score. 9.850

Ruthberg (BSU): Front through to double back, great landing and clean form in the air. Nice double pike second pass, a large step but the front foot stays planted. Good split position on the leaps. Rudi punch straddle jump to finish. Fantastic routine! 9.900!

Rotation 3 Scores: West Virginia 49.050, Ball State 49.025

AFTER THREE: Ball State 147.025, West Virginia 146.925

West Virginia put up an impressive beam performance to stay within easy striking distance of a 196 after three. As the Mountaineers head to their standout event, Ball State remains a tenth in the lead. The Cardinals will have to be rock-solid to take the win here, but a strong beam performance could snatch a school record on the road whether or not they come out on top. This will be a huge final rotation for both teams!

Rotation 4: Ball State BB, West Virginia FX

Ostendorf (BSU): Nice full turn to start. Come off after a good fight on the bhs loso series. Recovers with the split leap to tucked full. Front toss, another fall. Sticks the one and a half dismount. Uh oh. 8.500

Hornung (WVU): Beautiful form on the double pike, nice controlled lunge. One and half to front layout, close to the boundary but stays in. Finishes with a one and a half to front pike, great form and a nice forward lunge. Great way to start! 9.850

Elsadek (BSU): Nice switch leap to straddle quarter. Triple series nailed. Full turn slightly under rotated but no wobbles. Side aerial full twist, just a shuffle on landing. Back on track! 9.800

Lewis (WVU): Opens with a Rudi to back loso, just floats. Great leap pass. Double tuck to finish, under rotates and lands with chest down and a step forward. Good form in the air though. 9.775

Ruthberg (BSU): Bhs loso bhs series, a tiny wobble but nothing major. Switch leap switch leap, another small bobble. Floats the side aerial to back full dismount and nearly sticks! 9.850

Holmes-Hackerd (WVU): Opens with a Rudi punch layout punch double stag jump, well-controlled. Short of splits in the first leap but nails position on the straddle jump. finishes with a double pike, takes a small step forward. 9.850

Sumner (BSU): Side aerial bhs. Front aerial. No wobble so far. Short of position on split leaps and a pause in between the first and second leap. Side aerial to back full dismount stuck! Good routine. 9.750

Pierson (WVU): Double layout to open, a bit under rotated and steps forward but nothing big. Nice air in the front full to front layout, great form there. Huge straddle leaps, no problems with position. Great form on the double tuck to finish, controlled lunge back. 9.875

Volpe (BSU): Perfect full turn to start. Side aerial to beat jump, foot slides off but she saved it! Crooked on the bhs loso and can’t save it. She’s rattle, with another wobble on the switch leap. She’ll miss the connection and wobble on the tucked full. Side aerial to layout full dismount, nearly stuck. That’s tough for Ball State. 9.075

Combs (WVU): Great front through to double pike, a bit off balance on the lunge out. Nice leaps. Double back to finish, front foot slides back on the landing. 9.850

Waldo (BSU): Front aerial to front handspring. Switch leap to straddle quarter, well-done. No problems with the next acro series, and nails the punch front one and a half dismount. Great way to finish for Ball State. 9.900!

Yancey (WVU): Great double pike to open. No trouble with the leaps. One and a half to front half to double stag, great control. Finishes with a double tuck, beautiful landing! That should be a good score. 9.900!

Rotation 4 Scores: Ball State 48.375, West Virginia 49.275

FINAL RESULTS: West Virginia 196.200, Ball State 195.400

Back to back 9.900s to close out the meet today, a fitting end for what was a great meet. West Virginia finished strong on its best event, although minor landing troubles kept it from getting a massive score. Ball State couldn’t hold on despite good fight on beam, but still ended up with a strong road score that will boost its NQS. That’s a testament to how strong the Cardinals were on three events today. They should be very proud of their efforts today, and could be a legitimate threat to most teams if they can put it all together.

Event Winners

VT: Pfister (BSU) 9.875

UB: Teter (BSU) 9.850

BB: Waldo (BSU) 9.900

FX: Ruthberg (BSU), Yancey (WVU) 9.900

AA: Ruthberg (BSU) 39.325

Ryan’s Stories of the Day

West Virginia recorded its fourth-straight score of 196 or above, consistency the Mountaineers have struggled to achieve in previous seasons. Their NQS will rise once again, and the rest of the Big 12 should take notice. If West Virginia can put together a performance like this at the Big 12 championship in two weeks, it would have a good shot at defeating Iowa State and perhaps even Denver. That would be huge for a team that’s often overlooked in its conference. Ball State had some struggles in the last rotation, but that shouldn’t overshadow how excellent it looked today. The Cardinals bring a ton of difficulty and great execution on all four events, and it would be a delight to see them make the postseason.

READ THIS NEXT: Bubble Watch: March 2

Live blog by Ryan Wichtendahl

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