Jan. 14, 2013
Event Preview | The All-Around Podcast
Saturday, Jan. 19 -- vs. Illinois (Crisler Center), 4 p.m. (TV: Big Ten Network)
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Facility: Crisler Center | Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastics Training Center
The No. 2-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) looks to build off its best start in program history on Saturday (Jan. 19), when it returns to Crisler Center to host Big Ten rival Illinois (1-2, 0-0 Big Ten). The meet will begin at 4 p.m. and will be televised live to a national audience on the Big Ten Network. Lisa Byington and former U-M gymnast Kylee (Botterman) Kolarik will be on the call.
Michigan enters the week ranked No. 2 (196.738) in the GymInfo/Troester rankings. The Wolverines are tied for second on uneven bars (49.213, with Florida), third on balance beam (49.225) and floor exercise (49.313), and U-M is tied for 16th on vault (48.988, with Ohio State). UCLA claims the top spot in the poll this week (196.788).
Michigan topped the rankings at No. 1 in last week, the first time it had received a No. 1 ranking since 2000 (March 7-28). The last time Michigan was ranked No. 2 or higher in January was 2006 (Jan. 16, No. 2).
The rankings, which are determined by season scoring average, are released every Monday. The rankings will switch over to Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) on Monday, Feb. 25. [ Rankings ]
||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)
||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)
||39.675, Kytra Hunter, Florida
||39.413, Joanna Sampson (6)
||39.275, Katie Zurales (T-14)
||9.975, Katy Dodds, Maryland
||Five tied at 9.900
||9.875, Sachi Sugiyama (T-8)
||9.950, Jennifer Lauer, Nebraska
||9.913, Katie Zurales (T-3)
||9.863, Brittnee Martinez (T-21)
||9.863, Joanna Sampson (T-21)
||9.963, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA
||9.888, Sachi Sugiyama (T-13)
||9.875, Joanna Sampson (T-17)
Michigan is 46-9-1 all-time against Illinois. The Wolverines have won 35 consecutive meetings, a streak that began in January 1991. Michigan won both meetings last season: a 194.225-193.700 regular-season win on Jan. 27 in Ann Arbor and a higher finish at the 2012 Big Ten Championships (195.875-195.850). The Fighting Illini opened their season last Saturday (Jan. 12) in a quad meet at Arizona, finishing third (193.750). They are led by senior Alina Weinstein, a 2012 NCAA Championships individual qualifier who finished second in the all-around (39.175).
The Wolverines are off to the best start in program history, scoring above 196.500 in its first two meets for the first time ever. The last time Michigan scored above 196.500 in consecutive meets was 2010 (196.775 on Feb. 27, 196.575 on March 7). The Wolverines scored above 196.000 three times in 2012.
The last time Michigan posted a score of 196.900 or higher during the regular season was March 7, 2008, vs. Georgia (197.600). Last Saturday's score against Nebraska was also the team's highest home score since that Georgia meet in 2008.
Prior to last Saturday, the Wolverines' highest January score came in 2004 (197.075 vs. Michigan State). Additionally, Michigan has not had two scores of 196.000 or above in the month of January since 2008 (Jan. 11 vs. West Virginia - 196.075, Jan. 26 vs. Michigan State - 196.750). The Wolverines have not had three consecutive meets of post-196.000 scores during the regular season since 2011 (Feb. 26-March 12). Michigan is 24-4 in January meets since the start of the 2009 season.
Through two meets this season, the Wolverines have won or shared six of a possible eight event titles. Additionally, Michigan gymnasts have recorded 19 top-three finishes over the first two weeks (10 against Nebraska, 9 at the Cancun Classic).
Junior Joanna Sampson was named Big Ten Women's Gymnast of the Week on Monday (Jan. 14). She won the all-around in both meets to start the season, scoring 39.425 at the Cancun Classic -- a new career high -- and 39.400 against Nebraska last Saturday (Jan. 12). She has six career all-around titles. Sampson is also ranked sixth in the country in the all-around (39.413).
With the win against Nebraska, Michigan head coach Bev Plocki has 590 career wins. Since women's gymnastics was named a varsity sport in 1976, Plocki has accounted for 83 percent of the team's all-time victories (590 of 709). She is the fourth-longest tenured active Michigan head coach (24 years), behind Red Berenson (ice hockey), Carol Hutchins (softball) and James Henry (women's track and field).
The crowd for last Saturday's meet against Nebraska was 3,372. It is the Wolverines' biggest crowd since March 12, 2010, vs. Georgia (5,042).
Q: That's two great scores to start the season. You talked about confidence last week and the team seems to have a lot of it right now.
A: We do, and I think that's a really exciting thing. Again, we have to be guarded against getting overconfident and complacent. We'll continue to talk about focus. What you've done in the past doesn't earn you anything in the future. We have to go out and earn it every single week. There's no reason to believe that we won't continue to do that.
Q: Talk about the pressure that accompanies having the team ranked as high as they are this early?
A: I think it works for you and against you. Teams that come in here, they're obviously gunning for us because we're Michigan, especially this year. We're facing every Big Ten team. We're used to that. The thing that excites me is that when you are ranked high like we are, judges come into competitions expecting that. Often times, the scores reflect your ranking. Hopefully, that will help us. We are good and judges expect us to be good. As long as we perform the way we're capable of, that works to our advantage.
Q: This is the best start from a scoring standpoint in program history. You expected success, but did you expect the team to have this kind of success this early in the process?
A: Honestly, did I think we'd be No. 1 and No. 2 during the first two weeks of the season? Probably not. I did expect a lot stronger of a start than in years past because we've focused on that. We haven't increased difficulty yet, because we want to build that confidence over the course of the season and maintain consistency.
Q: Let's go back to balance beam for a second. Sachi (Sugiyama) was up second and fell and that might have been the first time the team faced adversity in a meet setting. The other four following her went up and hit. What did you see from your team in their response following the fall?
A: I told them right when the meet was over that I was most proud of them for that than anything else. When things are going great, it's easy for them to keep being great. We had a hiccup there, but I was so proud of them. It told me a lot about our team in terms of our ability to get up, shake it off and finish routines like we normally would. We talk about it, train for it. It's great to see when they actually pull that out in a meet atmosphere.
Q: How about that crowd on Saturday? That was our biggest crowd in several years. Is there such a thing as a 'home field advantage' in gymnastics and did you think that played a part in the gymnasts' performances?
A: Absolutely. The crowd was awesome. Our new time slots are a lot better for us. Considering the youth of our fan base, I thought the crowd really had a lot of energy, and that in turn gives us a lot of energy. The better we do, the more energized they are. It has an effect on us in a positive way, and that is really encouraging. Hopefully people still come out and bring their friends, and we can grow those crowds even further.
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan recorded its highest regular-season score since 2008, defeating defending Big Ten champion Nebraska, 196.900-196.300, last Saturday (Jan. 12) at Crisler Center. [ Recap | Highlights | Photo Gallery ]
Saturday, Jan. 26 -- at Minnesota, vs. Iowa State (Minneapolis, Minn.), 6 p.m. CST
OTHER RELATED LINKS
The All-Around (Tuesday)
Bev Plocki on WTKA 1050 AM (Friday at 8:05 a.m.)
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423