March 2, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State gymnastics celebrated both Alumni and Senior Night as it hosted Michigan on Saturday at Jenison Field House. Although MSU posted their highest floor score of the season, the Spartans fell to No. 3 Michigan, 197.300-194.875.
"I think that the team did a really good job of coming back," said head coach Kathie Klages. "We started off good on vault and then we got to the bars and had to count a fall, which is always a downer. It's hard to get the team back up, but they bounced back and did really well on beam and floor. So I'm really proud of them and seeing that mental toughness coming through. They're learning. It's just disappointing having to count a fall this late in the season."
"What an emotional night," Klages said. "It is a really special night to acknowledge those seniors and all that they have done for Michigan State gymnastics. We will miss Taira desperately. As we watched the video, I was just thinking how nice it would've been to have Shanthi competing tonight because she did such beautiful gymnastics. I'm just happy that we are able to thank them for everything they've done for this sport. To have the alumni back, too; it's just love all over the place."
Senior Taira Neal made the most of senior night tying her career-mark of 9.925 on the vault to place second and led the Spartans. Freshman Nicola Deans posted a 9.80, while Junior Dani Levy tied her season-best mark with a 9.75. Michigan State compiled a team vault score of 48.850. Led by the highest vault score of the night of 9.95 from Joanna Sampson, Michigan turned in a team score of 49.350 to win the event.
Leading the Spartans on the bars was freshman Lisa Burt, posting a score of 9.825. Sophomore Ashley Stevenson turned in a mark of 9.750, while sophomore Alina Cartwright and freshman Brittany Holmes each earned a mark of 9.725. The Spartans had to count one fall to total a team bars score of 48.000. Sampson and Shelby Gies both won the bars title with a 9.900 to give Michigan another team score of 49.350.
Levy recorded the highest score of her career of 9.875 to top the Spartans on the beam and place second. Cartwright posted another career-high score of 9.800, finishing third. In her final competition routine of her career, Neal posted a mark of 9.75. MSU totaled a team score of 48.975 on the beam. Winning the individual title on the beam was Gies of Michigan to help give the team a total of 49.175.
"I didn't really feel the emotions until I was done with beam on my last event of the day, so it all hit at once," said Neal. "There was definitely a lot of emotions, because I really enjoy this team and how far we've come. I was just really happy to end on a good note."
Michigan State finished strong on the floor led by another career-high tying score from Levy with a 9.875, tying her for third. Deans posted a 9.825, while junior Alex Pace finished the night with a career-best 9.800. The Spartans topped their highest team floor score of the season with a 49.050. Sampson recorded her second score of 9.950 to win the floor title and push the Wolverines to a 49.425 total on the floor.
In the all-around competition, Burt earned a total of 38.400 to place third, while the Wolverines' Joanna Sampson took the win with a score of 39.650.
The Spartans will travel to face Pittsburgh on Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m.