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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson head gymnastics coach Randi Chepke has been pumping up Mentor ever since the season began.
The Lady Cardinals have lived up to Chepke's billing. The only problem is Mentor did so at her team's expense.
The Lady Explorers suffered their first loss when they dropped a 138.1-137.2 decision to the Lady Cardinals in a Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division showdown Dec. 20 at Lake Erie Gymnastics in Mentor. Hudson did earn wins over Mentor Lake Catholic, Painesville Riverside and Eastlake North at the meet.
With those victories, the Lady Explorers improved to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the Valley Division. But Hudson's lone loss might sting for quite awhile.
"A loss like this one -- where you can pinpoint the two or three mistakes that cost us -- are the most difficult to swallow," Chepke said. "I predicted all along that Mentor would be the team to beat in the NOC, but I also knew if we had an opportunity to win, we had to do it early. We were leading after the first two events. Unfortunately, when we got to bars and beam, we started to falter."
Teghan Piper led the Lady Explorers in the floor exercise with a third-place score of 9.05.
Also scoring team points for Hudson on the floor were Jenni Spencer (9), Macy Lori (8.8) and Riley Skinner (8.5).
"We had a solid floor rotation," Chepke said. "We hit all but one tumbling pass and came away with an extremely respectable event total of 35.35."
Spencer paced the Lady Explorers on vault with a third-place score of 8.9. Rounding out the team scoring for Hudson on vault were Katie Goosmann (8.85), Megan Urbanic (8.75) and Lori (8.55).
"Our vault lineup hit big," Chepke said. "Jenni Spencer and Katie Goosmann turned in two of their highest numbers ever here, but we still need them to break that nine for us."
Unfortunately, things started to go downhill from there.
While Piper had a strong-second place performance with a score of 8.6, the Lady Explorers had an off-day on bars. Lori (8.2), Urbanic (8.2) and Goosmann (8) contributed Hudson's other scores on that event.
"The home-court advantage in gymnastics is more apparent on bars than anywhere else and we certainly struggled here," Chepke said. "We had a difficult time getting our rhythm and missed a lot of opportunities for added 10ths."
Things didn't get much better on the balance beam.
Hudson's top performer was Urbanic, who took third (8.7). Kelsey Tetmeyer was next for the Lady Explorers with a score of 8.4 and Piper and Spencer each finished with scores of 8.35.
"Probably our most impressive event as a team is the beam, but you wouldn't know it after that rotation," Chepke said.
"The girls with the greatest chance of scoring big for us wobbled, bobbled and dumped skills they generally can do in their sleep. The only highlights here were Megan's stuck doubles and Kelsey's clean routine. We've got to do better."
Piper led Hudson with an all-around score of 34.3, which tied for second place. Spencer took fourth (34.1) in the all-around standings and Urbanic placed fifth (34.05).
"It's early in the season and just like everybody else, we will get stronger and more consistent," Chepke said. "We have to remember nines win meets -- not eights. Every girl in the lineup needs to push a little harder and not settle for just good scores.
"They have to want great scores -- career-high scores."
The Lady Explorers will have plenty of time to regroup from their first loss. Their next meet isn't until 2014.
Hudson is scheduled to compete against NOC foes Twinsburg and Solon Jan. 4 at the Cleveland Gymnastics Center in Twinsburg. The competition is set to begin at 2 p.m.