The Gannon University acrobatics and tumbling team came back from two close losses in Eugene, Ore., on March 11 and defeated West Liberty University, 270.50-230.66, Saturday at the Hammermill Center.
Previous to the matchup against West Liberty, the Knights lost to NCAA Division I University of Oregon and Quinnipiac University in the Oregon Tri-Meet.
Gannon scored 271.930 points, the Ducks had a total of 272.230 points and Quinnipiac won the tri-meet with the most points, 274.585.
Six days later the Knights won their first home meet against West Liberty 270.50-230.66 out of a possible 300 points for both teams.
Coach Jacquie Eshleman said she is proud of the team’s season so far.
“I am very proud of my current athletes, and the growth and positive change of this program this year,” she said. “To be within three-tenths of the University of Oregon, who was seeded second in the coaches poll, and 2.6 points from Quinnipiac University, who was seeded fourth, is a pretty amazing jump from our previous year’s scores. We are just trying to have fun and focus on ourselves at every meet and let the scores fall where they may.”
Gannon was ranked No. 6 in the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association (NCATA) coaches poll. The Knights will stay home for the next meet as it takes on Alderson Broaddus University at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 31. Eshleman coached at Alderson Broaddus for four years and started the acrobatics and tumbling program at the university back in 2014.
During her time there she received NCATA Coach of the Year honors in the team’s second year of existence after leading the team to one of two Elite Eight appearances.
Eshleman said there are strong emotions going into the matchup with Alderson Broaddus, especially since her assistant coach, Alia Nolan, was an athlete there when she was coach. However, she reassured that while emotions are running higher that they are good, and there are no hard feelings.
“I still have a lot of love for that program and those athletes, and I will always want the best for them,” Eshleman said. “As far as my current athletes, we are ready for them or any other upcoming opponent.
“We go into every meet with the mentality of focusing on ourselves, and playing with a very offensive mindset. Meaning that we can only control ourselves, and the skills that we compete, and let the judges worry about the scores.”
Sophomore Brenna Schuler echoed Eshleman’s comment about the team’s mentality for each match and said the team is keeping the same mindset as it heads into the meet with Alderson Broaddus.
“We still have the same focus and goals because we don’t compete against the team across the mat from us, we compete against ourselves,” Schuler said. “Each meet it is important for us to try to improve our own team scores and continue to grow with each meet, despite who the opponent is.”
After defeating West Liberty, Eshleman has helped the Knights to their best start through six matches at 4-2 since the start of the program.
There was a lot going on at the meet as it was the first time the two teams have ever faced off and Gannon also hosted a Make-A-Wish event during the meet.
Schuler said they dedicated the meet to the Make-A-Wish group and passed collection baskets around the stands.
“Bringing attention to the cause was something very important to us and we are so glad we had the opportunity to do so,” Schuler said. “But overall, the Make-A- Wish meet was a total success because we brought awareness to it and look forward to doing it again.”
The Knights defeated the Hilltoppers in each event, which consisted of compulsory, acro, pyramid, toss, tumbling and the team event. Gannon’s compulsory score was 36.25 out of 40 possible and West Liberty scored 30 points.
In the acro event, Gannon scored 28.85 points after starting with 29.95 and the Hilltoppers scored 26.10 after starting with 28.45. There were 30 points possible in the event.
The Knights scored 29.55 of 29.80 points possible in the pyramid event, which had a possible of 30 points and West Liberty scored 27.30 out of 28.70 possible.
The toss event had a possible 30 points and Gannon started with 28.80 and scored 28.20. West Liberty scored 24.15 out of a possible 27.
Gannon scored 53.500 of 56.50 starting points in the tumbling event. The Hilltoppers started with 49.65 and scored 43.85. The event had a possible 60 points.
The final portion was the team event, which had a possible 110 points. Gannon started with 104.25 and received 94.15 and West Liberty earned 79.26 out of 95.47.
Eshleman said she is looking forward to competing against Alderson Broaddus, but she is focused on her team and program at Gannon.
“Myself and my athletes will always go against every school to compete and win, but maintaining focus on ourselves is paramount,” Eshleman said. “I think that is the beauty of our sport and that our only defense is our mindset, and our offense is all on us and how we perform.”