Jan. 20, 2014
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Facility: Crisler Center | Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastics Training Center
The No. 5-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (5-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will make its home regular-season debut this Saturday (Jan. 25), hosting rival and No. 23 Ohio State (1-2, 0-0 Big Ten) for a 4 p.m. dual meet inside Crisler Center.
Michigan moved up three spots to No. 5 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.800). The Wolverines are the top-ranked team in the Big Ten. The four teams in the rankings ahead of Michigan are No. 1 Oklahoma (197.188), No. 2 LSU (197.038), No. 3 Florida (196.863) and No. 4 Utah (196.763).
On the apparatuses, Michigan is fifth on floor exercise (49.325), tied for sixth on both vault (49.263) and uneven bars (49.163) and 10th on balance beam (48.913). Individually, Joanna Sampson is one of six U-M gymnasts in the individual national rankings, currently standing fourth in the all-around (39.475).
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. 24. The top 36 teams in the rankings will advance to one of six regional sites on Saturday, April 5 (at Minnesota, Georgia, Washington, LSU, Arkansas and Penn State), with 18 of those teams receiving a seed that is determined by RQS. A team's RQS is calculated by taking its six highest scores, three of which must be from road meets. The highest score is dropped and the remaining five are averaged. [ Rankings: Team | Individuals ]
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|Team Average||197.188, Oklahoma||196.663 (5)|
|Vault||49.463, Utah||49.263 (T-6)|
|Uneven Bars||49.350, Georgia||49.163 (T-6)|
|Balance Beam||49.263, Florida||48.913 (10)|
|Floor Exercise||49.413, UCLA||49.325 (5)|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.500, Katherine Grable, Arkansas||39.475, Joanna Sampson (4)|
|Vault||9.938, Bridget Sloan, Florida
9.938, Olivia Courtney, UCLA
|9.913, Austin Sheppard (T-9)
9.875, Joanna Sampson (T-22)
|Uneven Bars||9.933, Chelsea Davis, Georgia||9.850, Nicole Artz (T-22)
9.850, Natalie Beilstein (T-22)
9.850, Shelby Gies (T-22)
|Balance Beam||9.925, Sam Peszek, UCLA||9.850, Joanna Sampson (T-15)
9.837, Nicole Artz (T-23)
|Floor Exercise||9.950, Emily Wong, Nebraska
9.950, Diandra Milliner, Alabama
|9.938, Joanna Sampson (T-3)
9.875, Reema Zakharia (T-23)
The Buckeyes are 1-2 on the season and are ranked No. 23 in this week's rankings, averaging 194.673 through two meets. On events, Ohio State is 19th on balance beam (48.638) and tied for 23rd on vault (48.825). Individually, the Buckeyes are led by seniors Sarah Miller and Melanie Shaffer, both 2013 NCAA Championships qualifiers. Miller is a three-time All-Big Ten first teamer and was Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2011.
Series: Michigan is 41-22 all-time against Ohio State. The Wolverines have won or finished higher in 40 of the last 41 meetings between the two schools. Since losing twice in her first season as head coach in 1990, Bev Plocki holds a career record of 39-1 against Ohio State. The Wolverines won both meetings last season, including a 196.925-196.250 victory in Columbus. Former gymnast Katie Zurales (2010-13) hit a balance beam routine in the sixth spot following a fall to secure a victory and also finished higher at the Big Ten [ Recap ]
The meet on Saturday, Jan. 31, vs. Michigan State will be designated as the program's first-ever Autism Awareness Meet. The purpose of the meet is to inform and educate fans about the effects of autism. [ More Information | Tickets ]
Joanna Sampson scored 39.625 in the all-around at North Carolina State last Friday (Jan. 17), which is the second-highest score in the country to date (behind Florida's Bridget Sloan at 39.700) and just one quarter-of-a-tenth off her career best. Her all-around score of 39.625 is tied for the eighth-highest score in program history with Elise Ray (four times: 2005, 2002 -- twice, 2001), Calli Ryals (three times: all in 2002), Sarah Cain (1999), Jenny Deiley (2005) and Kylee Botterman (2011).She also tied for career highs on uneven bars and balance beam. She also surpassed 39.000 in the all-around for the 22nd time in her career, tying Lisa Simes (1996-99) for ninth-most 39.000-or-higher scores in program history. She now has 14 career all-around titles and 38 career individual event titles.
Sophomore Austin Sheppard is averaging 9.913 on vault through two meets this season, good for a tie for ninth nationally. Sheppard, the team's anchor on vault, scored at 9.900 or above in four meets last season as a freshman. She went 9.900 in the team's opener at Iowa State on Jan. 10 and hit 9.925 at North Carolina State last Friday (Jan. 17).
In addition to Joanna Sampson, two other gymnasts are averaging 9.800 or above on at least three events: fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein (9.813 on VT, 9.850 on UB, 9.837 on FX) and junior Sachi Sugiyama (9.863 on VT, 9.837 on UB, 9.800 on FX).
U-M is 23-1 in home openers under head coach Bev Plocki, including a stretch of 14 straight. Its only loss during the last 23 seasons came on Jan. 15, 1999, against Minnesota (L, 193.550-193.050).
The Wolverines are on a similar scoring track as last season. In 2013, U-M was averaging 196.737 through two meets (196.575, 196.900). In its third meet -- at home (Jan. 19, 2013, vs. Illinois) -- the Wolverines scored 197.350, which, at the time, was the program's highest score since 2008. Through two meets this season, U-M is averaging 196.663 (196.525, 196.800).
Through two meets, Michigan gymnasts have won seven of eight individual event titles and two all-around crowns (both by Joanna Sampson).
With a win over Ohio State, Michigan would get its 50th win in the month of January since the start of the 2005 season. Currently, U-M is 49-6-1 in that same span.
Q: What did you like most about last Friday's win at North Carolina State?
A: I like the fact that this team seems to be very business-oriented. They are focused and they're not getting stressed out by anything. They go in and take care of business. Granted we've not had anything happened yet that has caused major stress or panic, but they've handled even the littlest of things very well so far. Whether it's lineup changes or a situation on balance beam, they've handled it like champions and that's how we have to be moving forward. It's like baby steps. Slow and steady wins the race. We have not shown awesomeness yet, but we've shown a lot of really great things and we want to build on those things every week so we can get to the awesome performances we're capable of.
Q: The best gymnast in that meet was Joanna Sampson and she comes out of the weekend with the second-best all-around score in the country so far that's also just one quarter-of-a-tenth off her career best. She seems pretty dialed in right now.
A: She is and she's doing very well, but I don't think she's maximized what she's capable of. She has a lot in her tank, which is good. I don't want her feeling like she's got nothing to improve on. I like where she's at. At this level, we're talking about little things. She'll correct those and when she does, she'll be performing at an even higher level.
Q: Not many teams in the country have started the season with two straight road meets, yet, here Michigan is and they're ranked No. 5. Nothing beats competing at home in front of your own fans, on your own equipment.
A: If you're going to be great, you have to be great no matter where you are and that's something we've talked a lot about. You have to be able to adapt to whatever the situation is. Our team has done a good job of doing that on the road. Whether the mats are hard or soft or narrow, or whether the gym is darker... Those are all variables. They've adapted well. We're looking forward to being in a comfortable environment where we know what to expect going in. Hopefully we'll have a fantastic crowd and the energy level will be high. Then the adjustment becomes being able to control your energy and excitement. Sometimes at away meets, the challenge is getting that energy level up to where it needs to be, but at home, it's about controlling it to make sure it doesn't go over the top.
Q: Heading into these next two home meets, what would you like to see your team do more of?
A: It's not that I haven't seen this in road meets, but I just want our team to relax and have fun. We have a group of extremely talented gymnasts. They're prepared and their routines are very, very good. If they can stay relaxed and not get too hyped up, I think we're going to be very, very successful.
Q: Lastly, talk about the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry. It's great in every sport, but what about gymnastics?
A: Over the last four or five years, the Big Ten has really become a lot more balanced. It used to be Penn State and Michigan, but then Minnesota crept up in there and then Ohio State did. Nebraska is here now and they're a major handful. In Ohio State, it's a rivalry, yes, but we look at it like every other meet on our schedule. But there's absolutely no doubt that in any sport, coming away with a win over Ohio State makes for a good week.
LAST TIME OUT
Joanna Sampson won two events and the all-around, while Austin Sheppard won an additional event to lead Michigan to a quad-meet victory over North Carolina State, North Carolina and Towson last Friday (Jan. 17) in Raleigh, N.C. [ Recap ]
Friday, Jan. 31 -- vs. Michigan State (Crisler Center), 7 p.m.
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423
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