Nebraska Women's Gymnastics Photo No. 9

Nebraska's Taylor Houchin lands a flip on the beam during the Huskers' competition against Missouri at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Nebraska women’s gymnastics team opened and finished strong against No. 16 Missouri on Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a disappointing third rotation in a 196.45-195.925 loss. 

“It’s not what we’re capable of doing, and that’s what we talked about going into floor,” head coach Heather Brink said. “I thought they had some great floor routines tonight. They didn’t quit and for that, I’m proud of them for that heart.”

The Huskers opened with a team score of 49.3 on vault, as junior Megan Verceles Carr, sophomore Adnerys De Jesus and senior Taylor Houchin each claimed a share of the event title with scores of 9.925. Junior Anika Dujakovich followed with a 9.775, while freshman Kylie Piringer added a 9.75 and junior Makayla Curtis rounded out the NU lineup with a 9.7. 

Missouri recorded a 48.975 on the uneven bars in the opening rotation, as freshman Helen Hu led the team with a score of 9.9. 

NU competed on the uneven bars in the second rotation, where it scored a 49.025. Houchin recorded a 9.9 to share the event title with Hu, while freshman Clara Colombo followed with a 9.825. Additionally, De Jesus and Piringer each scored a 9.775 and Verceles Carr posted a 9.75. 

Missouri closed the gap in the second rotation, as it turned in a score of 49.325 on vault. Four Tigers scored a 9.85 or higher, led by a pair of 9.9s from junior Gabrielle Gottula and freshman Kambrie Brandt. 

The Huskers took a narrow lead into the third rotation, where things began to unravel on the balance beam after consecutive falls to begin the rotation. Verceles Carr responded with a 9.75, while Houchin scored a 9.775 and senior Sierra Hassel closed the rotation with a 9.875. 

“I think we kind of got ahead of ourselves and started overthinking a little bit more,” Houchin said. “We tend to do best when we just focus on one thing at a time and not think about the outcome.”

Brink said she thought some of the third-rotation troubles came from the team getting a little tighter than normal.

“The meet got a little closer,” she said. “I think they were just trying a little too hard to make up the difference and unfortunately we had to count a fall on beam.” 

Missouri spent the third rotation on the floor exercise, where it scored a 49.125 as four gymnasts scored a 9.8 or better. 

Trailing 147.425-146.35, the Huskers needed to mount a comeback heading into the final rotation. They answered with their best team score of the meet, posting a 49.425 in the floor exercise as each gymnast scored at least a 9.8. 

“I just told them to look at all the fans in the stands and feed off of that energy,” Hassel said of her message going into the final rotation. “All those people are here to watch us, and we work way too hard to not give them a great performance.”

Hassel tied her career high with a 9.95 to win the event, while Houchin followed with a season-best 9.925. Piringer added a 9.875 and sophomore Abby Johnston scored a 9.85. 

Missouri closed out the meet on the balance beam, where Hu scored a 9.95 to win the event. As a team, the Tigers scored a 49.025 to close out the win. 

Houchin and Hassel, the lone Husker seniors, turned in the team’s best scores on each of the last two rotations. Together, the duo combined for at least a share of four event titles — Houchin shared the all-round, vault and uneven bars crowns, while Hassel won the floor exercise title. 

“I think they’re our steady rock for this,” Brink said. “They’re modeling how to handle that pressure and the things that they do in order to be able to deliver under that kind of situation, and I think that helps take the younger ones under their wings and show them guidance.”