FAYETTEVILLE – Following two weeks on the road, Arkansas’ seventh-ranked gymnastics team returns home, but the Razorbacks face their fourth consecutive top 10 matchup.
Arkansas entertains No. 9 Nebraska on Friday at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.
Due to construction around Barnhill Arena, parking is available in the following areas – Lot 44, immediately north of the Broyles Athletic Center, Lot 73 at the corner of Razorback Road and Markham and the Stadium Drive parking garage. For fans parking in Lot 73, access to Barnhill Arena is through Gate 1 of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Also as a reminder, will call is at the south side entrance of Barnhill.
"We’re excited to be home," co-head coach René Cook says. "Nebraska is a great team and it will be a hard competition, but we’re excited to be back in our gym in front of our fans."
In the three previous meets, the Razorbacks have competed against No. 5 Oklahoma, at No. 6 Georgia and at No. 6 Alabama.
Last week at Alabama, the Razorbacks scored a 196.125 with senior All-American Jaime Pisani and sophomore All-American Katherine Grable tying for the all-around title with a 39.500. A highlight at Alabama was the 49.40 team score on vault, which matches the high for the season and the third-best in program history.
"We started off at Alabama with some nice routines on bars," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "A couple of landings had steps, but we were six-for-six. Vault was the best it’s been all season and we scored pretty high. We had some nice floor routines. We had a couple of stumbles on beam, but overall we competed hard."
"The team had a lot of energy," René says. "We were really focused. That’s something I thought we did poorly in the two previous meets, but we were excellent in that area at Alabama. That’s what it will take down the road. To do that in a tough environment last week was a great step for us."
Arkansas enters Friday ranked No. 7 overall, No. 5 on bars, No. 6 on vault, and No. 9 on beam and on floor. The Razorbacks have an average score of 196.500 with a high of 197.225. Nebraska is No. 9 with an average score of 196.308 and a high of 197.375.
"It will be neck-and-neck," Mark says. "Our programs are similar in our strengths. We’re very close in the rankings. Whoever performs the best with the fewest mistakes will win. It’s going to be close. Neither team can have a mistake and expect to beat the other team."
The meet features the top two floor performers in the nation. Pisani is No. 1 in the country for the fourth straight week with an average of 9.925. Nebraska’s Lora Evenstad is No. 2 with a 9.905.
The meet also features two of just three individuals ranked in the top five of more than one event. Grable is No. 4 in the nation on vault and No. 5 on beam. Nebraska’s Janeele Giblin is No. 2 on vault and No. 1 on bars.
Other rankings for the Razorbacks include Pisani No. 6 on bars and No. 16 on vault, senior Mariah Howdeshell No. 11 on bars and Grable tied for No. 21 on floor. In the all-around, Grable is No. 6, Pisani No. 10 and junior Jordan Salsberg No. 34.
Arkansas’ lineup last week included a vault order of junior All-American Kelci Lewis, freshman Stephani Canizaro, sophomore Scarlett Williams, Salsberg, Pisani and Grable. Salsberg led off on bars, followed by Canizaro, Grable, Pisani, sophomore Shelby Salmon and Howdeshell. Salsberg also led off on beam, followed by Salmon, freshman Sammy Kolbas, Williams, Pisani and Grable. On floor, sophomore Bailee Zumwalde was followed by Canizaro, Salsberg, Lewis, Grable and Pisani.
Junior All-American Amy Borsellino may be back in the floor lineup this week after missing the Alabama meet.
"Floor has been a little inconsistent," René says. "Amy has been in and out with minor injuries. We’re looking to get her back. She’s a phenomenal competitor, she’s confident and aggressive, and that settles the whole team down when you have six people with that same mentality."
Canizaro competed on three events for the first time last week, including her first appearance on vault, while Kolbas made her Razorback debut – on beam.
"Stephani will vault again," Mark says. "She stepped up and has made good progress in training, so I’m excited about that."
"Sammy did outstanding, especially at Alabama in front of 15,000 people for her first meet," René says. "She competed well, handled herself in a mature way and was aggressive. I’m excited to have her in the beam lineup."
Nebraska leads the all-time series 4-0, but the teams have not met since 2007. Nebraska leads 2-0 in Fayetteville, 1-0 in Lincoln and 1-0 in Corvallis, Ore., for the 2006 NCAA Championship.