The MAC may just be college gymnastics’ best-kept secret, with teams across the conference out of the limelight but steadily on the rise over the last decade. The top half of the MAC typically produces some of the best “down to the wire” bubble-watch drama, ending the last regular season with in-state rivals leading the conference at No. 36 and 37 nationally.
The preseason is starting and 2023 will be here before we know it. That means it’s time for our annual potential lineups analysis! As gymnasts get back into the gym with new goals for the new season, we’re breaking their prospects down and taking a look at what each team’s lineups may look like come January—from who’s expected to contribute, holes that need to be filled and exciting upgrades fans should look out for.
No. 36 Western Michigan
The Broncos are fresh off their second-highest team rank in program history, finishing 2022 in 36th and earning a program record 196.675. They’ll look to improve on these numbers in the coming season and qualify a team to regionals with a bye through round one.
|Losses:||Carissa Ludwig, Margo Van Linden|
|Gains:||Agenais Abetya, Makenna King, Brenna Woodruff|
|Returning From Injury:||Abby Singh|
Potential Contributors: Sarah Moravansky (9.855 NQS), Payton Murphy (9.850), Halle Faulkner (9.790), Dani Petrousek (9.770), Josephine Thomas (9.740), Ronni Binstock (9.75 AVG), Abby Singh (9.735), Cassie St. Clair (9.650), Donnakathryn Roy (9.550), Makenna King, Brenna Woodruff
How It Looked Before: Punctuated by St. Clair’s Tsuk tuck one and a half in select meets, the Broncos put up a steady lineup otherwise filled with Yurchenko-entry 9.95 start values. Vault was an incredibly consistent event as a team, staying in a scoring margin of 0.350 all season and occasionally breaking the 49 barrier.
How It Looks Now: On paper, head coach Penny Jernigan’s vault lineup for 2023 only needs to replace Ludwig. However with 10 athletes seeing competition time last year and a new freshman class, the lineup puzzle may have more pieces than it seems.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? With loads of depth in the 9.95 starts and only one 10.0 option, lineups could change based on the day. The possibility of Binstock and Singh coming back to leg events means vault should be looking up, pending their returns.
Potential Contributors: Sarah Moravansky (9.830 NQS), Molly Freeman (9.810), Payton Murphy (9.810), Dani Petrousek (9.790), Donnakathryn Roy (9.760), Halle Faulkner (9.600 AVG), Breckin Quoss (9.562), Agenais Abetya, Makenna King, Brenna Woodruff, Abby Singh,
How It Looked Before: While it wasn’t a consistent event for Western Michigan, a hit bar lineup almost always rang in three more hit rotations. Murphy led the squad by average and season high, punctuated by her Deltchev and blind full to toe front dismount.
How It Looks Now: The core of last year’s lineup will look to retain their spots and register a team NQS over 49.000. Of the freshman trio, Abetya is most likely to fill the vacant lineup spot.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Most of the bar lineup should stay the same—which will benefit the team in the first few weeks of competition—but the team NQS won’t improve without consistency and increased depth on the event.
Potential Contributors: Payton Murphy (9.865 NQS), Amanda Gruber (9.880), Rylee Gallmeyer (9.810), Sarah Moravansky (9.795), Josephine Thomas (9.790), Dani Petrousek (9.655), Halle Faulkner (9.790 AVG), Donnakathryn Roy (9.508), Agenais Abetya, Makenna King, Brenna Woodruff, Ronni Binstock, Ally Schaupp, Gigi Singh, Molly Freeman,
How It Looked Before: Murphy and Gruber lead the Broncos’ beam effort last year, finishing 27th as a team nationally and qualifying Gruber to an individual regionals spot on the event. Western Michigan will look to build off of last season’s beam high—a 49.325 on the road against Michigan State.
How It Looks Now: All six of last year’s NQS routines have returned, which will take lots of pressure off of trying to find replacements for the early weeks of the season. Or could it be the opposite—with increased pressure to retain one of last year’s six spots? The quartet of Roy, Murphy, Gruber and Moravansky should see lineup time early on, having each contributed at least 10 routines last year. The question remains if freshmen can fill spots five and six.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Somewhere between “looking up” and “too early to tell.” On paper, the Broncos retain their entire 2022 lineup that hit beam over 49 more times than under. However, between only three incoming freshmen and last year’s depth routines not seeing much lineup time, any newcomers will have to gain experience fast in order to keep up with where the team left off in 2022.
Potential Contributors: Payton Murphy (9.900 NQS), Dani Petrousek (9.845), Cassie St. Clair (9.835), Sarah Moravansky (9.830), Donnakathryn Roy (9.805), Ronni Binstock (9.887 AVG), Halle Faulkner (9.856), Amanda Gruber (9.617), Makenna King, Brenna Woodruff, Gigi Singh, Ally Schaupp,
How It Looked Before: Western Michigan was the conference’s most consistent team to watch on floor in 2022, even after only using Binstock for two routines. At every meet except for regionals the Broncos went above 49, peaking at 49.475 and finishing 30th nationwide.
How It Looks Now: Floor should continue to improve in 2023, with the return of Binstock after competing in only the first three meets last year. King may also see lineup time, building off of her level 10 two-pass routine that highlights leaps and graceful tempo.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? The Broncos will be eager to remain in the conference’s floor conversation and have a clear path to doing so this season. Floor looks to trend up in 2023.
Three Big Questions
What will this year’s freshman contribution look like?
Western Michigan had a freshman class of nine last year but didn’t rely on it beyond depth routines outside of Roy and St. Clair. Couple that class now having a year of collegiate experience with a freshman class of three for 2023, and the biggest question now is if this year’s trio will either see consistent lineup opportunities or will it follow in the footsteps of the large freshman class before it. If we see freshmen this season, watch for Abetya to be the quintessential bars and beam gymnast, King for her vault and floor compliment and Woodruff to sneak in on beam.
Can the duo of Payton Murphy and Sarah Moravansky recreate their 2022 success?
Murphy and Moravansky competed all-around throughout last season and will return six valuable NQS event scores. If they can settle in early to the 9.850-plus range during the regular season, they should be well set to lead the Broncos from the back half of every event’s lineup.
Can the Broncos upset Kent State’s in-conference floor hot streak?
Five out of six mainstay floor routines return from last year, and Western Michigan fans are eagerly awaiting Binstock’s comeback to complete the top six. With a full-strength six up five count, the Broncos may be able to take charge as this season’s MAC floor powerhouse.
No. 37 Central Michigan
The 2022 MAC champion will be looking to find its lineup sweet spot as early as it can this season after graduating only two athletes and four crucial routines between them. It hit their stride last season, breaking the 196 barrier five times, but in 2023 it will be eager to pass that in the first half of season.
|Losses:||Sierra Demarinis, Grace Gorham (transfer to UW-Whitewater), Morgan Tong|
|Gains:||Luciana Alvarado, Maddie Dukart|
|Returning From Injury:||Christie Tini|
Potential Contributors: Katie Kowalski (9.875 NQS), Hannah Demers (9.870), Avah Bootz (9.760), Quinn Skrupa (9.710), Lia Kmeciak (9.742 AVG), Luciana Alvarado, Maddie Dukart
How It Looked Before: Vault was Central Michigan’s most consistent event last year, never going below 48.500 but also never breaking past 49.150. The event was usually led by all-arounder Demers’ and top returning vaulter Kowalski’s Yurchenko fulls.
How It Looks Now: The pairing of Alvarado and Dukart should slot almost immediately into the vault lineup, each bringing Yurchenko fulls with them to Mount Pleasant. Dukart’s is expected to be consistent from the get go, having hovered in the 9.600 range since 2020.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Vault should be trending up slightly, bringing in two FTY options start while only *needing* to replace Demarinis on the event.
Potential Contributors: Hannah Demers (9.870 NQS), Audriana Hammond (9.820), Lia Kmeciak (9.815), Adriana Bustelo (9.805), Savana Kotas (9.760), Brenna Hauser (9.775), Ashley Veglucci (9.305 AVG), Luciana Alvarado, Maddie Dukart
How It Looked Before: The Chips’ bar lineup was decided quickly in 2022, with only seven gymnasts in all seeing lineup time on the event. It was also the team’s least consistent event, though, scoring between 47.700 and 49.200.
How It Looks Now: All six routines from last year with NQS scores are back, now bolstered by an Olympian in Alvarado.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Between returning the entire postseason lineup and potentially adding three new routines, bars are definitely trending up. To build on last season, a lineup counting five 9.800-plus routines will need to be established early in the year.
Potential Contributors: Hannah Demers (9.860 NQS), Adriana Bustelo (9.835), Quinn Skrupa (9.770), Katie Kowalski (9.760), Aleysia Kolyvanova (9.560), Amber Mueller (9.175 AVG), Luciana Alvarado, Maddie Dukart
How It Looked Before: Last year’s beam squad was great at hitting when it counted—going over 49 in the rotation that MAC fans will say won the conference meet. However, consistency proved to be an issue during the regular season.
How It Looks Now: This year’s lineup will have to fill the back end lineup spots left by Demarinis and beam specialist Tong. The team will ultimately narrow down last season’s seven returning routines with the three freshmen, boosted by Alvarado’s wealth of skills to pick and choose from her elite composition. Will this be the year Central Michigan boasts an aerial layout step-out in its beam lineup?
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Central Michigan’s key to success on beam will be figuring out its most consistent six athletes as early in the year as possible. It’s too early to tell, but the potential for a good beam season is definitely there.
Potential Contributors: Hannah Demers (9.885 NQS), Ashley Veglucci (9.850), Taylor Pitchell (9.840), Katie Kowalski (9.830), Aleysia Kolyvanova (9.805), Elizabeth Buttle (9.725 AVG), Avah Bootz (9.525), Luciana Alvarado, Maddie Dukart
How It Looked Before: Floor was a strong point for Central Michigan, going 49 at seven meets in a row and landing in the top 30 by the end of regular season.
How It Looks Now: With five returning NQS scores over 9.800, floor will be the hardest lineup for freshmen and last season’s depth routines to crack. However, Alvarado brings performance quality usually only seen from upperclassmen—fans of her Tokyo 2020 routine will be hoping to see it in Central Michigan’s lineup.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell, but all signs point to a few extra tenths this year. The Chips will surely be looking to replicate (and even build on) last year’s high of 49.500.
Three Big Questions
Can Central Michigan defend its conference title?
The long and short? It’ll all come down to the last routine. With the MAC being one of the tightest conferences in DI women’s gymnastics, the coaching staff of Christine MacDonald, Katy Ordway and new addition Lexi Funk will have to decide on the right combinations of lineups and pacing in order to fend off in-conference competition.
Will we see a 197-plus score this season?
The Chips got close last season, peaking at 196.650. This year’s freshman class should be the boost needed to go over 49 on each event in the same meet and hit 197 for the first time since 2018.
Will Demers have an all-around partner in Alvarado?
In 2022, Demers was one of the nation’s top all-arounders not representing a Power Five conference, registering an NQS of 39.360 and finishing the regular season in the top 30. We’ve seen top programs rely on two all-arounders to build off each other, so we can hopefully speculate that 2023 will have an all-around pairing from senior Demers and freshman Alvarado, too.
No. 41 Kent State
If you’re into bubble-watch teams and floor parties, Kent State is your bet for 2023. The Golden Flashes are bringing in one of the strongest freshman classes in the MAC and will look to hit the ground running come January.
|Losses:||Riley Danielson, Samantha Henry, Madison Iannuzzo, Kendra Lindway, Madison Trott|
|Gains:||Kennedy Bowen, Avery Compson, Emma Masse, Zoe Rankin, Nastia Rudnitskaya, Heidi Schultz|
Potential Contributors: Kyndall Gilbert (9.835 NQS), Alyssa Guns (9.820), Rachel Decavitch (9.810), Olivia Amodei (9.780), Kendra Lindway (9.720), Brynne Tsipis (9.750 AVG), Grace Wehry (9.694), Cami Klein (9.644), Nastia Rudnitskaya, Heidi Schultz, Kennedy Bowen, Emma Masse, Zoe Rankin, Avery Compson
How It Looked Before: Vault was Kent State’s lowest-ranking event last season, finishing 44th nationally. However, it was also the team’s most consistent event, staying within 48.650 and 49.125 all season. Its total depth on vault was eight gymnasts, which left little wiggle room for rest each week. By the end of last season, many of the vaults were stuck (or college stuck), but putting up six 9.900 start values put a ceiling on the team’s scoring potential.
How It Looks Now: Of the five returning NQS scores on vault, only three clear the 9.800 benchmark, so the freshmen will likely see their biggest impact as a class here. Four of the five have notched over 9.700 in their level 10 careers, and two are bringing 10.0 start options—Schultz and Rankin have trained Yurchenko one and a halves. Rudnitskaya has a clean Yurchenko full that may see immediate lineup time, peaking at 9.850 in level 10.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up. The freshmen are bringing five lineup-challenging vaults, and even if none of the 10.0 start values see competition time, the increased depth will allow for the rest that last year’s vault squad wasn’t afforded.
Potential Contributors: Sarah Haxton (9.880 NQS), Karlie Franz (9.835), Rachel Decavitch (9.825), Olivia Amodei (9.795), Kennedy Weinpert (9.790), Brynne Tsipis (9.800 AVG), Kyndall Gilbert (9.408), Nastia Rudnitskaya, Heidi Schultz, Kennedy Bowen, Emma Masse, Zoe Rankin, Avery Compson
How It Looked Before: Bars was a strong point for last year’s team, highlighted by Sarah Haxton’s 9.900 as an individual at regionals. They will look to improve on last year’s 29th place national ranking, as well as high 48s to low 49s for the typical scoring range.
How It Looks Now: Last season’s returning NQS scores on bars paint an image of consistency, which will make picking lineups in 2023 a tricky job. Incoming national bars champion Rudnitskaya should serve as an immediate boost to the lineup, filling the hole from Iannuzzo. In level 10, Rudnitskaya was often above 9.500 and went as high as 9.750.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell, but it’s looking positive. It’ll be tough for the Golden Flashes to push into the top 25 nationally on bars, but this combination of returners and rookies may be their best bet at doing it.
Potential Contributors: Cami Klein (9.855 NQS), Alyssa Guns (9.800), Sarah Haxton (9.800), Rachel Decavitch (9.790), Grace Wehry (9.475 AVG), Nastia Rudnitskaya, Heidi Schultz, Kennedy Bowen, Emma Masse, Zoe Rankin, Avery Compson
How It Looked Before: DeVeau’s alumnae Klein and Haxton led the beam effort in 2022, going as high as 9.925 and 9.875, respectively. Beam was Kent State’s least-consistent event last season, varying more than 1.500 between the season high and season low.
How It Looks Now: With only five returning beam routines from last season, the Golden Flashes will look to freshmen to fill holes and replace inconsistencies. Watch for Schultz to make her mark early with an elite gymnast-sized bag of acro elements to build her collegiate routine from—including a change-leg side aerial.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Trending up? While having to replace Danielson and Henry on beam, Kent State’s 2023 roster should boast enough replacements to field serious competition for lineup spots. We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for winter intrasquad season to see how the beam group shapes up.
Potential Contributors: Karlie Franz (9.905 NQS), Alyssa Guns (9.900), Rachel Decavitch (9.850), Olivia Amodei (9.850), Grace Wehry (9.845), Kennedy Weinpert (9.835), Cheyenne Pratola (9.787 AVG), Sarah Haxton (9.738), Kyndall Gilbert (9.650), Nastia Rudnitskaya, Heidi Schultz, Kennedy Bowen, Emma Masse, Zoe Rankin, Avery Compson
How It Looked Before: Floor. Party. It began with then-freshman Guns earning a 9.975 in her collegiate debut, and the team never looked back after that. The Golden Flashes finished their regular season 23rd nationally on floor and swept the conference regular season lead metrics by NQS, team high and team average.
How It Looks Now: The only thing harder than being the best is staying the best. Kent State will have a target on its back every weekend as soon as it rotates to floor. Increased depth from freshmen will be the secret weapon—Bowen and Ranking have all passed the 9.700 mark in level 10 and will be eager to contribute on meet weekends in Kent.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? On paper, Kent State’s floor should only trend up from last year, losing no mainstay routines and gaining valuable depth from freshmen. In practice, we’ll have to wait and see how much room is left to improve, since the team already cruised to a 49.550 last year and will likely put forth an identical if not very similar lineup.
Three Big Questions
Will any freshmen break into the floor lineup?
We may not know until the first meet weekend—with six NQS scores returning and three freshmen who’ve cracked 9.700 in their club careers, it will likely come down to who’s the most prepared each week. One thing is for sure, though, they’ll have floor depth that many teams would clamor over.
Who will the breakout freshman be?
The answer could depend on the event and how you prefer to watch the sport. Former three-star recruit Rudnitskaya is joining the flashes hot off a top-10 all-around finish at level 10 nationals and brings a sky-high double layout off bars. Schultz is also a former three-star recruit and will likely make her impact on the leg events. Rankin may serve as the second vault/floor punch right after Schultz, with both having similar club scores.
Regionals bubble watch?
The word “regionals” should be on the front of coaches Brice Biggin’s, Sharon Sabin’s and Craig Ballard’s minds after not qualifying a full team in 2022. The pieces of the postseason puzzle are all there: graduating only three routines, bringing in a freshman class of six (with two former three-star recruits) and retaining beam star Klein.
No. 48 Ball State
Ball State will be eager to replace routines quickly this season, and brought in a freshman class of seven athletes to make the lineup transition as smooth as possible. Look for this team to climb the rankings with the addition of former three-star recruit Zoe Middleton.
|Losses:||Sandra Elsadek (Georgia), Marissa Nychyk, Sari Thaler, Stefanie Schweikert, Kelly Sulek, Alivia Ostendorf (Utah State)|
|Gains:||Dilynn Blair, Kenna Geibel, Aislyn LaBadie, Zoe Middleton, Alauna Sims, Karah Vargo, Leah White|
Potential Contributors: Suki Pfister (9.895 NQS), Victoria Henry (9.845), Hannah Ruthberg (9.790), Megan Teter (9.683 AVG), Taylor Waldo (9.575), Dilynn Blair, Kenna Geibel, Aislyn LaBadie, Zoe Middleton, Alauna Sims, Karah Vargo, Leah White
How It Looked Before: On paper, vault was a highlight for Ball State last season—punctuated by the one-two punch of Pfister’s and Henry’s 10.0 start values. In practice, by mid-season the team was experimenting with sub-9.9 start values and five-up lineups in order to rest Pfister and Henry. The team earned their highest regular season event ranking in 2022 here, finishing 38th nationally.
How It Looks Now: The team has an arsenal of freshman vaults to consider for the top six in 2023, ranging from Blair’s stickable front handspring pike to White’s sky-high Yurchenko full. The season will have updated vault start values, as the women’s gymnastics committee changed LaBadie’s 10.0 start (at the time of recruitment) Yurchenko full on tuck to a 9.95 for the 2023 season.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Should trend up, as the team has four freshmen who’ve gone 9.700-plus in level 10 to replace a projected three lineup spots. Be ready to see either a solid six emerge early on in the season, or a competitive rotation mid-season as new faces are tested and veterans are rested.
Potential Contributors: Megan Teter (9.815 NQS), Hannah Ruthberg (9.785), Victoria Henry (9.770), Grace Evans (9.745), Grace Sumner (9.745), Dilynn Blair, Kenna Geibel, Aislyn LaBadie, Zoe Middleton, Alauna Sims, Karah Vargo, Leah White
How It Looked Before: Ball State held its own on bars in 2022 but struggled to consistently count five routines over 9.750. The bars squad had nine contributors in all and peaked at 49.100 near the end of regular season.
How It Looks Now: The returners from last year’s bar lineup should enjoy adding LaBadie, who’s gone as high as 9.700 in level 10 and competes a blind full to Gienger to shootover combination.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Bars should trend up from last season once head coach Joanna Saleem figures out who else will join the main lineup or can contribute depth options.
Potential Contributors: Taylor Waldo (9.850 NQS), Lauren Volpe (9.845), Hannah Ruthberg (9.815), Grace Sumner (9.795), Erica Cooper (9.475 AVG), Dilynn Blair, Kenna Geibel, Aislyn LaBadie, Zoe Middleton, Alauna Sims, Karah Vargo, Leah White
How It Looked Before: The team’s strength came from specialists Volpe and Waldo, each notching an NQS in the top 150 nationally. Consistency as a team proved an issue for Ball State, as it only had two meets in 2022 counting five beam routines over 9.750.
How It Looks Now: Expect a battle for lineup spots, with only six of last season’s beam competitors returning. Freshmen are joining with unique series, including LaBadie’s aerial to layout step-out. Middleton should also bring options to build her beam routine in Muncie, but we’ll have to wait and see which skills from her elite career will see time in college.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Should trend up if the lineup puzzle can be solved with the right combination of home and away meets left to record a team NQS with only hit rotations. This year’s beam squad is on the brink of the 49 NQS barrier after being 0.080 off last season.
Potential Contributors: Megan Teter (9.840 NQS), Erica Cooper (9.840), Hannah Ruthberg (9.815), Taylor Waldo (9.770), Victoria Henry (9.770), Grace Evans (9.594 AVG), Dilynn Blair, Kenna Geibel, Aislyn LaBadie, Zoe Middleton, Alauna Sims, Karah Vargo, Leah White
How It Looked Before: Lineup flexibility and exhibition opportunities separated Ball State from its competitors last season, showing off the team’s depth—and proving that artistry has to do more with personal agency than mastering the compulsory steps (…except for Grace Evans, we see you). The team finished just outside of the top 50 nationally on floor and had three athletes go over 9.900 on the event.
How It Looks Now: The team should look to start this year’s floor campaign pretty close to where last year’s squad left off, returning six routine options from 2022. Freshman LaBadie has the best shot at making the early season floor lineup, consistently in the mid-nine range with a routine-opening front double full.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Floor should at least hover where it did last season. As with beam, Ball State will be eager to break the 49 NQS barrier on floor following a 48.970 in 2022.
Three Big Questions
How will the impact of two outgoing transfers leave the team?
The unexpected departures of Sandra Elsadek (Georgia) and Alivia Ostendorf (Utah State) combine to leave open seven routines from the MAC championship last season. Only time will tell who will fill the holes created in both lineups and leadership presence—and with such a large freshman class, it’ll likely be a mix of returners and new gymnasts.
What will it take to stay in the top half of the MAC?
During regular season: consistency. Beam and bars scores fluctuated well into the “today needs to count for NQS” territory in the back half of the 2022 season, which (along with other teams returning from lockouts) ultimately brought Ball State down 11 spots in the national rankings.
What will a full roster look like?
By mid-season in 2022, Ball State was experimenting with depth and going five-up-five-count due to injuries and strategic resting. Having a healthy roster should allow the team to live more comfortably in the low 196 range, rather than having that mark achieved only once.
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Article by Peri Goodman
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