Tigers’ depth provides boost

Sunday, March 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:26 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Depth has given Missouri a seasoned flavor.

The Tigers are benefiting from tough competition for lineup spots, competition that allows coaches to rest key contributors without lowering scores, which increases team confidence.

“Depth just allows the team to be that much better,” Missouri coach Rob Drass said. “Every day we compete for the spots in competition, and they’re much more seasoned that way.”

Without leader Lauren Schwartzman, Missouri tied balance beam and floor records to earn its third 197 this season to easily win the Mizzou Invitational on Saturday at Hearnes Center.

Schwartzman sat out of the Tigers’ lineup with plantar fasciitis, a slight sprain to the arch of her left foot. Her absence allowed others to show Drass they can contribute and motivated Schwartzman for future meets.

“Now it’s just an injury, but in the future I want to make sure I work hard so I don’t have to be put in this position again,” Schwartzman said. “But that we can put random people in and get the same score, it’s exciting.”

Kelley Andersen, a sophomore, stepped in for Schwartzman on floor exercise. Anderson was a runner-up at the 2002 Junior Olympic Nationals in floor competition, but has performed once this year on the floor before Saturday. She scored a 9.9 both times.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster, knowing we have someone who can step right in and keep the pace going,” Rachel Bridges said.

Bridges and Andrea Nervig compete in the Tigers’ floor lineup regularly. Each scored career-high marks Saturday. Bridges earned a 9.925 with a new routine. Nervig scored a 9.950.

A career-high 9.925 from Alisha Robinson on beam helped compensate for Schwartzman’s absence on the apparatus. Schwartzman is ranked No. 14 nationally on beam on which she scored a 10 on Jan. 11. She is the only MU gymnast to do so in any event.

Bridges, Miranda Boeckman and Amanda Pezzullo tied career highs on beam to help the team earn a 49.325.

Robinson and Pezzullo continue to peak on beam.

“It feels really good that I can go out there and do something consistent to help the team,” Pezzullo said.

Pezzullo bettered her career high on vault with a 9.9. Vaulting specialist Whitney Crater also earned a 9.9. Sara Zigler vaulted in place of Schwartzman, and made her first vault for MU this season. She scored one of three 9.75s for the Tigers.

MU is entering what Robinson said is a significant week of practice.

“Next week going into Texas Women’s is going to be the week that you’re going to have to really show your stuff,” Robinson said. “That’s one of the things about having a depth team is that you have to come every day to practice.”

Hoping to improve the team’s regional qualifying score, Drass plans to move Schwartzman and Jodie Heinicka back into the lineup in Texas and at the Big 12 Conference championships.

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