COLUMBIA — It’s been nearly a decade and a half since the Missouri women’s gymnastics team last defeated Nebraska in regular season competition.
Missouri has never won at Nebraska, a fact they’re looking to change Saturday night.
No. 11 Missouri (3-0) at No. 9 Nebraska (3-0)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Lincoln, Neb.
“Nebraska in the past has kind of intimidated us,” senior gymnast Sarah Shire said. “They’ve appeared to be a better team, and we’ve really let that sink into our minds. Every year we go there, we don’t get beat because we’re physically not good enough. We have a mental lapse.”
The Missouri gymnastics program, which debuted in 1980, has beaten the Huskers during the regular season just three times. They have lost the past 14 of those meets.
Two of those Tigers wins, including the last one in 1995, came during Missouri coach Rob Drass’ tenure as a Nebraska assistant coach. Drass will look to capture his first victory over his previous employer at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, when the Tigers will be looking for their first victory at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Neb.
“Recently we’ve been competitive enough to really give them a run,” Drass said. “And, anytime we meet, it’s a toss up now.”
Both teams boast 3-0 records this season, and each team has defeated four ranked opponents. Nebraska is ranked ninth in the NCAA national rankings, while Missouri is 11th. Not since 2006 have the Tigers been ranked so high entering their annual tilt with the Huskers.
“Both our teams are doing really well, and it’s just going to come down to the 10ths (of points),” Missouri sophomore Mary Burke said. “It’s going to be who’s on that day, who hits the handstands, who sticks their landings.”
Missouri is coming off a win in its Big 12 conference opener last weekend, when it beat Iowa State 196.400-196.000. The Tigers will be Nebraska’s first Big 12 opponents of the season. The Huskers already have wins over Washington, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan.
Burke and Shire have captured all three Big 12 Gymnast of the Week awards so far this season.
“All three weeks coming from Missouri is a big deal,” Shire said. “It possibly could put some pressure on other teams like Oklahoma and Nebraska. They see that we have two strong all-around forces. I think people are beginning to look at Missouri in a different way, and hopefully that’s a little bit of our intimidation toward them.”
Nebraska will counter with junior Maria Scaffidi, ranked 21st in the nation, and junior Erin Davis, who has a Big 12 Event Specialist of the Week award under her belt this season.