Michigan Bests No. 20 West Virginia to Stay Perfect in 2012
Annette Miele

Feb. 3, 2012

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Site: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Crisler Center)
Score: #22 Michigan 194.650, #20 West Virginia 194.050
Records: U-M (4-0), West Virginia (5-2)
Attendance: 1,360
Next U-M Event: Saturday, Feb. 11 -- at Masters Classic with Nebraska, Washington and Southern Utah (Lincoln, Neb.), 6 p.m. CST

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Another fourth rotation rally was the difference as the No. 22-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team squeaked past No. 20 West Virginia, 194.650-194.050, on Friday night (Feb. 3) inside Crisler Center. Sophomore Joanna Sampson (Willow Grove, Pa./Upper Moreland) won her first career all-around title with a score of 39.300, finishing among the top three in each event, including wins on bars (9.900) and floor (9.825).

The Wolverines were slightly behind heading into the last rotation (146.075-145.825), but four scores of 9.800 or better provided the winning margin. Sampson and sophomore Reema Zakharia (Miami, Fla./Coral Gables Senior High) tied for the top spot on floor with successive 9.825 scores, while freshman Sachi Sugiyama (Keller, Texas/Keller) and junior Katie Zurales (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) tied for third with 9.800s. West Virginia struggled on the balance beam, scoring only a 47.975, opening the door for Michigan to take the win.

As in past meets, the Wolverines surged out to a quick start during the first rotation. Sugiyama won the event with a career-high score of 9.925, while Zurales tied a career high with a score of 9.900 and a second-place finish. Sophomores Stephanie Colbert (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) and Sampson tied for third with identical 9.825 scores. Despite putting only five up on vault, Michigan hit every routine and led West Virginia, 49.225-48.550, after the first rotation.

Michigan moved to uneven bars and closed the rotation in impressive fashion, as Sampson and Brittnee Martinez (Colorado Springs, Colo./Doherty) tied for first with scores of 9.900 as the fourth and fifth competitors, respectively. Sugiyama came close to tying a career high, scoring a 9.800 and finishing third, while freshman Annette Miele (Easton, Pa./Easton Area) counted a 9.750. Despite counting a fall, U-M maintained its lead over the Mountaineers, 97.800-97.300, heading into the third rotation.

The Wolverines attempted to pad their score on balance beam during the third rotation. Sophomore Shelby Gies (Pennington, N.J./Hopewell Valley Central) started the rotation off with a 9.700, but Sampson led the team with a 9.750. As a team, Michigan scored a 48.025, but West Virginia held a slight 146.075-145.825 lead going into the last rotation.

The Wolverines return to the gym next Saturday (Feb. 11) when they compete in the four-team Masters Classic in Lincoln, Neb. The meet, which will also include Nebraska, Washington and Southern Utah, will begin at 6 p.m. CST.

Team StandingsVaultBarsBeamFloorTotal
West Virginia48.75048.55047.97548.775194.050

Event-by-Event U-M Individual Scores

Brittnee Martinez              9.750
Stephanie Colbert              9.825 (t3)
Katie Zurales                  9.900 (2)
Sachi Sugiyama                 9.925 (1)
Joanna Sampson                 9.825 (t3)
Uneven Bars
Shelby Gies                    9.225
Annette Miele                  9.750 (t5)
Sachi Sugiyama                 9.800 (3)
Joanna Sampson                 9.900 (t1)
Brittnee Martinez              9.900 (t1)
Balance Beam
Shelby Gies                    9.700 (5)
Reema Zakharia                 9.550
Brittnee Martinez              9.600
Sachi Sugiyama                 9.175
Joanna Sampson                 9.750 (2)
Annette Miele                  9.425
Floor Exercise 
Sachi Sugiyama                 9.800 (3)
Katie Zurales                  9.800 (3)
Stephanie Colbert              9.525
Joanna Sampson                 9.825 (t1)
Reema Zakharia                 9.825 (t1)
Annette Miele                  9.575
Joanna Sampson                 39.300 (1)
Sachi Sugiyama                 38.700 (3)


• Michigan improves to 16-4 all-time against West Virginia

• Three of Michigan's four wins on the season have been of the come-from-behind variety (Ohio State, Illinois, West Virginia).

• Michigan's vault score of 49.225 is the second highest of the season. The Wolverines scored a 49.300 against Ohio State back on Jan. 13. Additionally, Michigan has scored above a 49.000 on vault as a team in every meet this season.

• The Wolverines scored their highest team score since the season opener against Ohio State on Jan. 13, and improved to 4-0 on the season in the process.

Katie Zurales competed on vault and floor against West Virginia after being an all-arounder for the first three meets of the season.

Annette Miele competed on three events (bars, beam, floor) against West Virginia. She had only previously competed on one event in two of Michigan's prior meets this season.


Michigan Head Coach Bev Plocki
On the team's performance against West Virginia ... "We're getting better. We didn't count any falls on beam. We're still shaky there and didn't have our best scores, but it's a step forward."

On the decision to put only five on vault and bars ... "We didn't have that sixth person tonight. We opted not to use Katie Zurales tonight in some events, but it's a decision that will pay off for us in the long run. It was important for them to know that we can put five up in events and still survive. All those little things along the way that are confidence builders are what help them gain experience to know that when the pressure is on in some of the bigger competitions, they can do what they need to do. This team is getting more mature every week we go along."

On the outlook for the remainder of the season ... "I'm trying to look at the season more strategically. If we have to bite the bullet now and not be scoring what we want to score, or even potentially take a loss, then that's what we'll do to try and insure we have kids healthy and prepared when they are in the lineups at the end when we need them. What matters is regionals and what you do there. We need five more scores to formulate an RQS and be seeded into the Regional Championship. At the end of the season, none of what happens now is going to matter, but it's hard because everyone wants to put their best foot forward every weekend. We're all competitive. It's a tough pill to swallow. We've got to take our lumps now and try to make sure we're doing the right things for the athletes so we can be safe and continue to get stronger."

On the team's ability to rally for wins at the end of meets ... "Every time we do it, it builds confidence that they can do it again. Beam is an event where there is no room for error, so you have to be the most perfect. The errors show a great deal more there than they do on any other event. It's a very young team, and we just have to have patience, and keep doing what we're doing. They are practicing well and doing better in competition. We just have to keep telling them the same things. As they gain more experience, they'll become more mentally tough and aggressive on that event."

U-M Junior Katie Zurales
On the team's performance ... "I think it was a team effort, and it's been that way the whole season. We're still young, and we're still learning to compete well and confidently. We had a lot of improvements, so overall, it was good for the whole team. I do think that we've come together. We're ready to fight and ready to put it all together."

On the team's strong start on vault ... "It definitely gives us a lot of confidence when you have a nice start like that. It gets us going on a positive note. It gets the energy going, and everyone excited. And we can use it for a springboard for the other events, too."

U-M Sophomore Joanna Sampson
On the improvements she has made through the first four weeks of the season ... "I've just been going to the gym and doing my thing. I'm coming in with a lot of confidence and treating each practice like a meet. It's starting to pay off, and I hope it continues."

On performing on beam ... "I don't know what the difference is. I've become very good at blocking things out and staying focused, and the rest of the team is doing that well too. We're getting better and better each week. We'll get those little things figured out for next week."

On continuing to come back for wins ... "I think we can keep doing it as many times as we need to. We don't plan on having to comeback on floor, but we stayed strong. We've got a really good group of floor routines that can put up the scores, and we've just go to show we we've done in practice."

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423

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