Michigan Wins Regional, Headed Back To NCAA Championships
Brittnee Martinez

April 6, 2013

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Site: Morgantown, W. Va. (WVU Coliseum)
Event: 2013 NCAA Morgantown Regional
Result: 1st Place of 6 Teams (196.725)
U-M Record: 29-2 (17-2 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Fri.-Sun., April 19-21 -- at NCAA Championships (Los Angeles, Calif.), TBA

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Behind event titles from seniors Katie Zurales (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South), junior Joanna Sampson (Willow Grove, Pa./Upper Moreland) and Brittnee Martinez (Colorado Springs, Colo./Doherty), the No. 5-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team won the NCAA Morgantown Regional on Saturday (April 6) inside the WVU Coliseum, punching its ticket to the NCAA Championships. Zurales tied for first on balance beam (9.900), while Martinez and Sampson tied for top honors on uneven bars (9.900). Sampson also tied for third in the all-around (39.200).

Michigan will be headed back to the NCAA Championships for the 19th time in the last 21 years. Additionally, this is the Wolverines' 10th NCAA Regional Championship and second in the last three years (2011). Following the conclusion of the meet, head coach Bev Plocki was named NCAA Regional Coach of the Year, while Sampson was named NCAA Regional Gymnast of the Year. Plocki received the honor for the sixth time in her coaching career. Sampson is the fifth U-M gymnast to be named Regional Gymnast of the Year and first since Kylee Botterman in 2011.

By virtue of being the No. 1 seed, Michigan had the Olympic order rotation, meaning it started on vault. The Wolverines got off to a solid start, scoring 49.200 as a team, as all six gymnasts in the rotation scored at or above a 9.800. They were led by Zurales and freshman Austin Sheppard (Dallas, Texas/Plano East), who each scored 9.875 after hitting their respective Yurchenko fulls, with only slight deductions coming on small steps during the landings. Sampson recorded a 9.850, while three others -- sophomore Sachi Sugiyama (Keller, Texas/Keller), junior Stephanie Colbert (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) and senior Natalie Beilstein (Butler, Pa./Knoch) each received 9.800s.

After a bye, the Wolverines moved to uneven bars, where they scored 49.375 as a team, as all six gymnasts in the rotation finished in the top five. Junior Shelby Gies (Pennington, N.J./Hopewell Valley Central) got the ball rolling, scoring a 9.850 to open the rotation. Sophomores Annette Miele (Easton, Pa./Easton Area) and Sugiyama followed Gies and received the same score, an especially big routine for Sugiyama after falling each of her last two times out in competition. All three tied for fourth. Martinez was up fourth, connecting on her huge Tkachev release move and sticking the landing to receive a 9.900 from the judging panel. Sampson scored the same in the fifth spot -- both tying for the event title -- before Beilstein anchored the rotation with a score of 9.875.

The pressure was on Michigan right from the beginning on balance beam after Gies couldn't stay on the beam. Martinez got the team back on track with a solid routine, recording a 9.750, the only deduction coming on a step on the dismount. Miele tied her career high with a score of 9.875 (tie for third), which was punctuated after hitting her double-pike dismount. Sampson followed with a solid 9.800 routine before Zurales hit for a 9.900 to tie for first, her highest score on that apparatus since the second meet of the season. Her routine began with a side aerial back handspring and ended with a stuck landing, resulting in a trio of 9.990s from the judges. The rotation came down to freshman Briley Casanova (Dallas, Texas/Spring Creek Academy), who was the anchor on balance beam. The rookie stayed on the beam to score a 9.725, preventing Michigan from counting a fall on arguably the toughest event and sending it into their final bye with a team score of 147.625. The next closest team was Kentucky at 146.600.

Michigan capped its performance on floor exercise, scoring 49.100 as a team. Beilstein started the rotation with a score of 9.875, coincidentally on the same floor she won the Regional title on back in 2010. She tied for second on the event along with Sugiyama and junior Reema Zakharia (Miami, Fla./Coral Gables Senior High). The other counted score came from Colbert (9.675). Second-place Illinois closed out on balance beam, but finished seven-tenths behind Michigan, giving the Wolverines the title.

The NCAA Championships will take place April 19-21 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, Calif. Preliminaries will take place on Friday, April 19, with Super Six on Saturday, April 20. Event finals will take place on Sunday, April 21. Times will be announced at a later date.

Team Standings Vault Bars Beam Floor Total
MICHIGAN 49.200 49.375 49.050 49.100 196.725
Illinois 48.975 48.925 49.175 48.950 196.025
Nebraska 49.650 48.875 48.525 48.825 195.875
Kentucky 48.925 48.800 48.975 48.875 195.575
West Virginia 49.025 48.475 48.450 48.525 194.475
North Carolina 48.775 48.500 48.550 48.525 194.350

Event-by-Event U-M Individual Scores

Stephanie Colbert                9.800
Katie Zurales                    9.875
Natalie Beilstein                9.800
Joanna Sampson                   9.850
Sachi Sugiyama                   9.800
Austin Sheppard                  9.875
Uneven Bars
Shelby Gies                      9.850 (t4)
Annette Miele                    9.850 (t4)
Sachi Sugiyama                   9.850 (t4)
Brittnee Martinez                9.900 (t1)
Joanna Sampson                   9.900 (t1)
Natalie Beilstein                9.875 (3)
Balance Beam
Shelby Gies                      9.075
Brittnee Martinez                9.750
Annette Miele                    9.875 (t3)
Joanna Sampson                   9.800
Katie Zurales                    9.900 (t1)
Briley Casanova                  9.725
Floor Exercise
Natalie Beilstein                9.875 (t2)
Stephanie Colbert                9.675
Katie Zurales                    9.800
Reema Zakharia                   9.875 (t2)
Sachi Sugiyama                   9.875 (t2)
Joanna Sampson                   9.650
Joanna Sampson                   39.200 (t3)

Coach of the Year: Bev Plocki, Michigan
Gymnast of the Year: Joanna Sampson, Michigan
Assistant Coach of the Year: Mike Rowe and Terry Karwoski, Pittsburgh


• Michigan qualified for the NCAA Championships for the 20th time in program history. It has made the NCAA Championships in 19 of the last 21 seasons.

• It was the program's 10th NCAA Regional Championship and second in the last three years. The Wolverines won crowns in 1982, 1997, 1999-01, 2003, 2005, 2005-06, 2011.

• With the Regional titles by Brittnee Martinez and Joanna Sampson (tie -- uneven bars) and Katie Zurales (tie -- balance beam), Michigan has crowned at least one NCAA Regional individual champion in 20 of the last 22 meets. The program now has 57 NCAA Regional individual titles.

Katie Zurales is only the third gymnast in program history to win an NCAA Regional title on balance beam, joining Beth Wymer (1995) and Elise Ray (2002, 2004).

Joanna Sampson has now won an NCAA Regional title in three-straight years. She won vault in 2011 and 2012. It was the first NCAA Regional title for Brittnee Martinez.

Bev Plocki was also named NCAA Regional Coach of the Year in 1992, 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2010.

• The previous U-M gymnasts to receive NCAA Regional Gymnast of the Year honors were Calli Ryals (2002 - co-winner), Elise Ray (2004-05), Lindsey Bruck (2006, 2008) and Kylee Botterman (2011). Sampson is the fourth gymnast to be named Big Ten and Regional Gymnast of the Year in the same season, joining Ray (2005), Bruck (2008) and Botterman (2011).

• This was the Wolverines' second visit to Morgantown for an NCAA Regional, the other time occurring in 2010, when they finished second. It was also their second trip to the campus this season, having won a quad meet back on Feb. 24.

• The Wolverines' vault score of 49.200 was their lowest since Jan. 12 vs. Nebraska (49.000).

Katie Zurales was not an all-around competitor on Saturday (elbow). She was not in the lineup on uneven bars but was in on vault, balance beam and floor exercise.

Katie Zurales recorded 9.900 score on balance beam for the third time this season and for the first time since Jan. 12 vs. Nebraska.

Annette Miele tied her career high on balance beam (9.875). She also scored 9.875 on March 2, 2012, at Penn State.

• U-M's sport administrator, Mike DeBord, was also named NCAA Regional Administrator of the Year.


U-M Head Coach Bev Plocki
On winning Regionals... "It's very exciting. Last year, we had a setback, but we're back and that's where we expect to be. It's back to work for us and on to the next one."

On the team making it back to NCAAs after last year's struggles... "I'm thrilled for the team. It's great to see them happy and excited. Hopefully, this gives us confidence going in. In a lot of ways, this meet is harder. If you don't have a good meet, you're staying at home. We still have little things to clean up. We have yet to have our perfect meet. Hopefully that's in the stars and we'll have that in Los Angeles."

On the team having a different attitude going in than at Big Tens... "They did. It's something we talked about and concentrated on. These last two weeks -- this whole season, really -- we've had great energy and great attitudes. Tonight, we were positive throughout the whole thing. Even when we had the fall on balance beam, I had a lot of confidence that the next five would come up and hit. That's what we prepare for. It's good to see us do it the way we prepared."

On the seniors... "They all had great meets. They definitely lead the way for us through here with their energy, experience and performance. We have a team full of leaders, but those seniors lead the way. When you have good leadership, good things happen."

U-M Senior Katie Zurales
On winning regionals... "It feels great, much better than last year. It's going to be great to go with the whole team after finishing off regionals on a good note."

On if the team had a different mentality going into regionals... "Definitely. In warmups, we wanted to relax and just have fun. I think we kept it going throughout the meet. We did a good job there."

On balance beam... "On beam, it's always focusing on your routine and not letting outside factors affect you. We go up, attack our routines and be aggressive. That's what we did and it worked out."

U-M Senior Brittnee Martinez
On winning regionals... "We are ecstatic. We had so much fun out there. It's great to see so much hard work pay off. We just wanted to have fun -- not forced fun -- and just enjoy the experience. I think that type of thinking definitely helped us today."

On making NCAAs after last year... "Everything happens for a reason. We got back in the gym after last year and knew what we wanted. We knew what we were capable of. To make it, again, just shows that hard work does pay off."

On uneven bars... "It was so fun. I was actually nervous to go, but I embraced the feeling. It was awesome. After I got started, I just went on autopilot. It was great to stick that landing."

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423

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