Slow start haunts Tigers against Nebraska

Friday, January 23, 2009 | 10:53 p.m. CST; updated 11:18 a.m. CST, Saturday, January 24, 2009
Adrianne Perry, a senior, performs on the balance beam during the Pink Out meet at Hearnes Center on Friday.

COLUMBIA — Sarah Shire had just fallen off the balance beam and posted her lowest event score of the season, a 9.2. She left the floor and walked under the tunnel.

Missouri’s best gymnast early this season, Shire entered the meet ranked second in the nation on the beam and seventh in the all-around. But one event ruined an otherwise stellar night for the junior.

For the first time this season, Shire failed to win the all-around. Also for the first time, Missouri’s gymnastics team lost. No. 12 Nebraska beat No. 13 Missouri for the 14th straight time in the regular season, 195.75 to 194.75, in front of a crowd of 3,459 Friday night at Hearnes Center.

The Tigers (2-1, 1-1 Big 12) weren’t able to overcome another slow start in their home opener. After faltering in the opening event Jan. 16 at Arizona State, Missouri fought back and won. But Friday’s hole was too big.

“We keep coming out and digging a little hole in the first two events,” coach Rob Drass said. “We don’t do that, and I think the meet goes a whole different way.”

Missouri scored a season-low 48.45 on the vault to start the night. After their second event, the uneven bars, the Tigers were already trailing by more than half-a-point. Missouri posted another season-low on the beam, and a strong performance on the floor couldn’t erase the deficit.

“It’s hard,” Shire said. “It really is. Especially because we’ve been doing so well on the road and to come home to a huge crowd for us…and we just couldn’t deliver.”

Shire wasn’t sure what caused her to fall off the beam. She said it might have been a mental lapse or pressure from competing in front of a home crowd.

Although the Tigers faltered, senior Adrianne Perry tied for first in the all-around with a 39.35, her first all-around title of the year. But it was bittersweet for Perry.

“I don’t necessarily think they’re a better team than we are,” Perry said. “I don’t believe that at all. They were just on tonight.”

The Cornhuskers didn’t slip all night, posting season-highs in three events. Kylie Stone tied Perry for the all-around title. Senior Alicia Hatcher and freshman Mary Burke also had strong meets. Hatcher led Missouri on bars and beam. Burke scored her first 39 of her career in the all-around with a 39.075, second-best of the meet.

After struggling to put together a complete meet on the road, Burke said it helped competing in front of a home crowd. Juniors Becky Scholle and Danielle Guider struggled on the vault, putting the Tigers behind from the start. Drass said this year’s team could be the best in Missouri history, but it’s not there yet. “The fact of the matter is, we just have to do a better job starting out,” he said.

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