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Friday March 24th

Gymnastics season preview: UNC looks for second straight regional appearance with veteran talent

The North Carolina gymnastics team stands together wearing #BeTrue shirts in support of the LGBTQ+ community before a meet against Florida on Jan. 20, 2017.
Buy Photos The North Carolina gymnastics team stands together wearing #BeTrue shirts in support of the LGBTQ+ community before a meet against Florida on Jan. 20, 2017.

After finishing near the bottom during the EAGL Championship and NCAA Regionals in 2017, the North Carolina gymnastics team is looking to start the season off right Friday night at 7 p.m. against rival N.C. State.

Recap of last season

The team finished third in the regular season league with a record of 11-4 last season with notable wins during its quad meet against N.C. State, Pittsburgh and William & Mary, as well as a season-high score of 195.875 against New Hampshire. The team, however, slowly fell apart during the postseason.

The EAGL Championship consisted of familiar opponents for the Tar Heels: N.C. State, George Washington, New Hampshire, Pittsburgh and Towson. Out of the list, the only team UNC lost to during the regular season was George Washington in the Lindsey Ferris Invitational. Despite the success during the regular season and a healthy squad going into the postseason, the Tar Heels finished in fourth place with a score of 194.525 — the fourth lowest score of the season.

Heading into the NCAA Gainesville Regional, the Tar Heels were looking for redemption after they struggled through EAGL. This was the Tar Heels' first time competing in the regionals since 2013. There was only one familiar foe at the meet: New Hampshire. The other competitors consisted of some tough opponents including Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Penn State. UNC finished in fifth place with an even lower score of 194.425.

Who to watch for this season

Morgan Lane has been a fan favorite since she walked onto the team as a first-year. Last year alone, the Columbus, Indiana native scored her personal bests on vault (9.875 on March 12 vs. UCLA), uneven bars (9.850 on February 17 vs. New Hampshire), balance beam (9.950 on Feb. 10 against N.C. State, Pittsburgh and William & Mary) and her floor exercise (9.925 on Feb. 17 vs. New Hampshire).

Morgan Lane, now a senior, competes in the 2017 EAGL Championships in Raleigh.

Lane was named EAGL Gymnast of the Week multiple times throughout 2017 as well as the EAGL Gymnast of the Year. She was awarded first-team All-EAGL honors for balance beam, floor and all-around competition — as well as being awarded second-team All-EAGL honors for the uneven bars.

Sophomore Khazia Hislop burst out on the scene as a first-year last season. She is one of the nine sophomores on the team of 18. Despite being a first-year, Hislop quickly rose to the top of the team through her accolades and high scores. She earned EAGL Rookie of the Week five times last season as well as being named EAGL Freshman of the Year.

Khazia Hislop performs a floor routine in February 2017 in Carmichael Arena.

Hislop performed on beam and floor every meet of the season. She broke her personal best on beam twice during the season, placed top ten on beam eight times and finished top-five six times. The sophomore earned a score of at least 9.775 ten times — as well as earning 9.800 eight times — and scored at or above 9.850 five times. Hislop placed among the top five scores in all but one regular season meet, and as a result, received first-team All-EAGL honors on floor exercise and second-team All-EAGL honors for balance beam.

What to expect

Two years ago, the team was riddled with injuries. Last year, the team was dominated by first-years. This year, there are veterans and lead scorers in each category, which leaves fans hopeful for a successful season. 

There are a lot of new opponents in the Tar Heels’ schedule such as Oklahoma on Feb. 11, which won the NCAA 2017 Gymnastics Championship with a score of 198.3875, and Alabama, which placed sixth in the NCAA 2017 Gymnastics Championship with a score of 196.000. UNC has yet to break the 196-point barrier.

The hope for this North Carolina team is that it practiced its bar routines during the offseason. It was the nail in the coffin for the team during the EAGL Championship, as well as the NCAA Regional competition. The Tar Heels need consistency from the entire squad in order to compete alongside these powerhouses and make it back to regionals for a second year in a row.


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