Jan. 21, 2013
Saturday, Jan. 26 -- at #12 Minnesota, vs. #20 Central Michigan, vs. Iowa State (Minneapolis, Minn.), 6 p.m. CST
Following its highest score in five years, the No. 1-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten) is back in action on Saturday (Jan. 26), competing in a quad meet against No. 12 Minnesota (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten), No. 20 Central Michigan (2-1) and Iowa State (2-0) at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn. The meet will begin at 6 p.m.
Michigan is back at No. 1 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.942). The Wolverines were ranked No. 1 following the first week of competition and were No. 2 last week. Prior to this season, the only other season Michigan was ranked No. 1 was 2000 (March 7-28). The GymInfo/Troester rankings began in 1996.
Nationally, they are ranked second on floor exercise (49.375), third on both uneven bars (49.250) and balance beam (49.225) and tied for 10th on vault (49.092). Individually, Joanna Sampson ranks fifth in the all-around (39.458), while Katie Zurales is seventh (39.425).
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 ]
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|Team Average||196,942, MICHIGAN||---|
|Vault||49.342, Florida||49.092 (T-10)|
|Uneven Bars||49.342, Florida||49.250 (3)|
|Balance Beam||49.275, Oklahoma||49.225 (3)|
|Floor Exercise||49.513, UCLA||49.375 (2)|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.675, Kytra Hunter, Florida||39.458, Joanna Sampson (5)|
|39.425, Katie Zurales (7)|
|Vault||9.938, Katy Dodds, Maryland||---|
|Uneven Bars||9.908, Kytra Hunter, Florida||9.867, Katie Zurales (T-13)|
|9.850, Joanna Sampson (T-20)|
|9.850, Brittnee Martinez (T-20)|
|9.850, Sachi Sugiyama (T-20)|
|Balance Beam||9.925, Stephanie Giameo, Maryland||9.900, Katie Zurales (T-4)|
|9.842, Brittnee Martinez (T-24)|
|9.842, Joanna Sampson (T-24)|
|9.842, Shelby Gies (T-24)|
|Floor Exercise||9.963, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||9.900, Joanna Sampson (T-8)|
|9.892, Sachi Sugiyama (15)|
|9.867, Reema Zakharia (T-24)|
Michigan is 39-19 all-time against Minnesota. This Saturday's meeting will be the fifth dual meet between the two schools in the last six seasons, with Michigan winning the previous four, including a 193.150-193.000 victory last season in Minneapolis. Sophomore Sachi Sugiyama won the all-around in that contest (39.050). Minnesota won the second meeting, finishing higher than Michigan at the Big Ten Championships on March 24 in Iowa City, Iowa (195.950-195.875). The Golden Gophers are best on vault, where three gymnasts -- Kayla Slechta, Kylie Schermann and Jenny Covers -- all individually rank among the top 25 in the nation. Additionally, Minnesota's Lindsay Mable was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after scoring 39.325 in the all-around in a quad-meet win over Penn State, Kent State and Towson last Saturday.
The Wolverines are 32-5 all-time against Central Michigan and 12-0 all-time against Iowa State. Michigan has won six straight meets against the Chippewas, with the two teams last facing each other in 2009. The last meeting between Michigan and Iowa State came at the 2011 NCAA Regional Championships in Ann Arbor, with Michigan winning, 197.075-194.800. This Saturday's meet will be the first of three meetings with the Cyclones this season, the other two times coming on March 10 at UCLA (as part of a quad meet with California) and on March 16 in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines are off to their best start in program history, averaging 196.941 through three meets, improving on its score in each meet. They scored 196.575 at the Cancun Classic back on Jan. 4 to open the season and scored 196.900 against Nebraska on Jan. 12. Michigan's score of 197.350 last Saturday (Jan. 19) vs. Illinois is the team's highest score -- regular season or postseason -- since March 7, 2008 vs. Georgia (197.600).
Senior Katie Zurales and junior Joanna Sampson each recorded new career-high scores in the all-around against Illinois. Zurales finished first in the all-around (39.575) while finishing first on uneven bars (9.925) and tying for first on balance beam (9.875). Sampson took second in the all-around (39.550), winning the vault (9.925) and floor exercise (9.950) titles. Zurales' previous career-best score in the all-around was 39.450 (set March 9, 2012, vs. Georgia), while Sampson's was 39.425 (set Jan. 4, 2013, at the Cancun Classic).
Through three meets this season, the Wolverines have won or shared 10 of a possible 12 event titles. Additionally, Michigan gymnasts have recorded 31 top-three finishes over the first two weeks (including ties). In three meets, Joanna Sampson has won or shared five event titles, finished tied for second in two others and has two all-around titles.
With a win against Illinois, Michigan head coach Bev Plocki has 591 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 (591 of 710).
Q: Another week goes by, and the team gets another big score. Evaluate your team's performance from Saturday.
A: A coach is always the biggest critic, but that's not to say I'm not ecstatic about how we've been performing so far. We're always looking at ways to get better. Even the athletes would tell you that they are happy about how they performed, but in every single one of their routines, they can find something to correct, whether that's a stuck landing, hitting a handstand on bars, or a wobble on beam. We're doing well. I'm excited about that. I'm equally excited that we still do have room to get better.
Q: Talk about the energy level surrounding this program right now. You're back to being No. 1 in the country, and though it's still January, this is a much different team than it was at this point last season.
A: Absolutely. It's the fourth week of the season and being No. 1 doesn't really mean anything, but it sure beats not being No. 1. That's fun and exciting. The energy level is great, and the confidence is nothing but positive. What makes me happiest is when I hear comments from fans at the competition about how our team looks confident and positive. If it's showing that much to spectators, then I know it's for real.
Q: One of the bigger, overriding themes for the team is redemption and wanting to perform better against certain teams than last year. Next up on the tour is a trip back to Minnesota, where the team didn't perform well last year. Is last year's meet a talking point during preparation this week?
A: I'm kind of glad that our team is positively motivated by the idea of redemption. Sometimes you can go back to a place with bad memories, and that can psych you out, but I don't think that's going to happen for us. If anything, it's going to psych us up. This weekend last year for the team, for myself personally, was just a horrible one. The coaches from Minnesota and I laugh about it because it was equally as bad for them. When I signed the scoresheet, I was astounded that we won the meet. That being said, I think both teams want to redeem ourselves in this competition. Minnesota is a very good team, and they've gotten off to a great start, as well. They are ranked No. 12 right now and have the No. 1 vaulter in the country. They're actually ranked above us in that area. We're really looking forward to it. With Iowa State and Central Michigan there, too, it should be a great meet.
Q: Lastly, speak a little about your two captains, Joanna (Sampson) and Katie (Zurales), and what they are providing to the team? Both had career-best scores in the all-around last week and appear in championships form, but their leadership to this team has also been important.
A: They are bringing a great deal in both of those categories. Performance and scores speak for themselves. I've said many times that last year was a year of growth. For them as leaders, sometimes the way to become a great leader is to be thrown into the fire. That definitely happened last year. I think they learned a lot about how to hold a team together. It's certainly easier when things are going well rather than when they are going poorly. Last year has catapulted us into this year from a motivation standpoint and we're reaping the benefits of everything we learned.
Q: At what point does talking about last season become old? What happened last year is in the past and you have to move forward, but at the same time, as you said, last year's experience was a big motivating factor. That can't leave you entirely.
A: I think that it has been an emphasis as we got into this season, but you're right. Through the middle-half of the season, that will sort of fade away, and we'll be focused on the here and now. I think it'll come back around the postseason. That's when a lot of the hurt and pain of not qualifying to nationals, the remembrance of what that felt like, will come back. Hopefully, that provides us with a last big surge of motivation.
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan put up its highest score since 2008, beating Illinois for the 36th straight time, 197.350-195.100, last Saturday (Jan. 19) at Crisler Center. [ Recap | Highlights | Photo Gallery ]
Saturday, Feb. 2 -- vs. Iowa (Crisler Center), 4 p.m.
OTHER RELATED LINKS
Brandon's Blog: Women's Gymnastics Returns to Form With Fast Start
Alumni Spotlight: Kylee (Botterman) Kolarik
The All-Around (Tuesday) -- Natalie Beilstein and Austin Sheppard
Bev Plocki on WTKA 1050 AM (Friday at 8:05 a.m.)
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423