This Week in Michigan Women's Gymnastics #4

Jan. 28, 2014

Coach Plocki on WTKA Insider audio | The All-Around with Lindsay Williams audio
• Autism Awareness Meet: Preview video icon | Brandon's Blog

Friday, Jan. 31
-- vs. Michigan State - Autism Awareness Meet (Crisler Center), 7 p.m.
Tickets | Live Results | Live Video | Twitter Updates

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• Facility:
Crisler Center | Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastics Training Center

The No. 4-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (6-0, 1-0 Big Ten) looks to defeat a conference rival for the second time in as many weeks as it welcomes Michigan State (0-3, 0-2 Big Ten) on Friday (Jan. 31) to Crisler Center. The meet will begin at 7 p.m.

A live stream of the meet will be available through the All-Access Player (for a fee). Glenn Miller (play-by-play) and former U-M gymnast Kristin Nagle (analyst) will be on the call.

This Friday's meet against Michigan State will serve as the team's first-ever Autism Awareness Meet. The purpose of the meet is to educate and inform. To help accomplish this, several organizations will set up tables on the Crisler Center concourse to pass out information and answer questions. Throughout the meet, each U-M gymnast will appear on the videoboards mentioning facts and statistics pertaining to autism. Additionally, U-M men's gymnast and U.S. Olympian Sam Mikulak will be on hand to sign autographs from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats up to 25 minutes before the start of the meet to see an exhibition where gymnasts with autism and other special needs will perform.

To purchase tickets, go to or call (866) 296-MTIX. Free pizza will also be provided to students that attend the meet.

Michigan is tied for fourth in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.883), sharing the spot with Utah. The Wolverines moved up one spot from last week, improving their season scoring average from 196.663 to 196.883 following last Saturday's performance against Ohio State. Michigan is the top-ranked team in the Big Ten and is also No. 1 on three events (VT, UB, FX).

On the apparatuses, Michigan Is tied for third on floor exercise (49.383), sixth on both vault (49.275) and uneven bars (49.200) and seventh on balance beam (49.025). Individually, Joanna Sampson is fifth nationally in the all-around (39.475) and tied for third on floor exercise (9.942), while Austin Sheppard is tied for sixth on vault (9.908). Sampson still holds the nation's second-highest all-around total so far this season (39.625) behind only Kytra Hunter and Bridget Sloan of Florida (both scored 39.700).

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 ]

Team Average 197.317, Oklahoma 196.883 (T-4)
Vault 49.508, Utah 49.275 (6)
Uneven Bars 49.435, Georgia 49.200 (6)
Balance Beam 49.300, Florida 49.025 (7)
Floor Exercise 49.400, Florida 49.383 (T-3)
All-Around 39.525, Rheagan Courville, LSU 39.475, Joanna Sampson (5)
Vault 9.933, Bridget Sloan, Florida 9.908, Austin Sheppard (T-6)
9.875, Joanna Sampson (T-25)
Uneven Bars 9.933, Georgia Dabritz, Utah 9.863, Nicole Artz (20)
9.858, Natalie Beilstein (T-22)
Balance Beam Four tied at 9.925 9.833, Talia Chiarelli (T-22)
Floor Exercise 9.950, Diandra Milliner, Alabama 9.942 Joanna Sampson (T-3)
9.892, Reema Zakharia (T-15)


Michigan State
Michigan State is 0-3 on the season (0-2 in the Big Ten), averaging 193.142 on the season. The Spartans hosted Penn State last Saturday (Jan. 25) in East Lansing, but lost to the visiting Nittany Lions, 194.825-192.750. They are led by junior Alina Cartwright, who is tied for 12th nationally in the all-around (39.300).

Series: This Friday's meet will be the 101st meeting between the two schools, with Michigan holding a 62-38 advantage in the series. The Wolverines have won 17 consecutive meetings dating back to 2007. Head coach Bev Plocki holds a record of 61-9 in all competitions against Michigan State.


• On Monday (Jan. 27), senior Reema Zakharia was named Big Ten Event Specialist of the Week and freshman Nicole Artz was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week. [ Release ]

• The Wolverines enter this Friday's competition with a seven-meet home winning streak that coincidentally began with a March 16, 2012, victory over Michigan State (at Cliff Keen Arena). Michigan is averaging 196.925 in all regular-season home meets during that same stretch (seven meets), compared to 196.918 on the road (eight meets).

• The Wolverines scored 49.250 on balance beam against Ohio State, its second-highest score on that apparatus in the last four years. The highest score on balance beam over that same stretch was 49.275, which came at the Cancun Classic on Jan. 4, 2013.

• The Wolverines have hit at least 49.500 on floor exercise in four meets since the beginning of last season. Of the team's 18 routines on floor exercise so far this season, 13 have been scored at 9.850 or higher, including seven at 9.900 or higher.

• Senior Joanna Sampson has won seven consecutive all-around titles in qualifying meets during the regular season dating back to last season. She surpassed 39.000 or greater in the all-around for the 23rd time in her career, putting her in ninth place on the school's all-time list. With an all-around win and two more event titles last Saturday (Jan. 25) against Ohio State, Sampson has now amassed 15 career all-around titles and 40 career individual event titles.

Sophomore Austin Sheppard has won vault in each of the team's first three competitions this season, scoring 9.900 or better every time. She went 9.900 or above in four meets last season as a freshman.

• Three gymnasts are averaging 9.800 or higher on at least three events: freshman Nicole Artz (9.863 on UB, 9.825 on BB, 9.817 on FX), fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein (9.808 on VT, 9.858 on UB, 9.842 on FX) and junior Sachi Sugiyama (9.867 on VT, 9.833 on UB, 9.825 on FX), while freshman Talia Chiarelli is close to being the fourth (9.800 on VT, 9.833 on BB, 9.792 on FX). Two others have 9.800-or-better averages on two events: sophomore Austin Sheppard on VT (9.908) and UB (9.800) and senior Shelby Gies on UB (9.842) and BB (9.825).

• Both freshmen have performed among the best in the Big Ten so far. Nicole Artz ranks second in the conference on uneven bars (9.863), while both her and Talia Chiarelli are among the top five on balance beam (Chiarelli is fourth -- 9.833; Artz is tied for fifth -- 9.825).

• From a scoring standpoint, Michigan is very close to last year's averages. The Wolverines have also shown steady improvement in each of the first three meets:

  2013 2014
First Meet 196.575 196.525
Second Meet 196.900 196.800 (+.275)
Third Meet 197.350 197.325 (+.525)
Fourth Meet 196.775 Friday vs. Michigan State

• Through three meets, Michigan gymnasts have won 11 of 12 individual event titles and all three all-around crowns (Joanna Sampson).


Bev Plocki
Head Coach

Q: Recap last Saturday's win over Ohio State. What did you like?
A: I was exceptionally pleased with our team as a whole. Our freshmen continue to perform like rock stars, which is exciting to see. Joanna continues to do fabulous things. Reema had a spectacular meet. Everybody contributed at a very high level. For us, we need our alternates to be able to fill some spots. We've talked about our depth. It needs to stand up and come through for us and I have every confidence that it will.

Q: One of the highlights of that meet was the balance beam performance. Talk about the group being able to go out there and perform at a high level under pressure.
A: When they are able to do that, the confidence not just within themselves, but within each other, rises. When your confidence goes up, the anxiety goes down and when you're relaxed and confident, good things tend to happen.

Q: Safe to say that Reema Zakharia had one of the best meets of her career against Ohio State, sticking all three of her landings and hitting that beam routine. What can that do from a confidence perspective for her?
A: I think it's huge. Even when she didn't hit the week before, I kept telling her, 'You got a 9.4 with a fall.' She was doing great. The connection was wonderful and the series was wonderful. The only thing we wanted her to change for the next time was the angle of her foot when she lands so she can stay on and that's exactly what she did. Even though she fell the week before, it was one tiny, little mistake in an otherwise flawless routine. She's been doing very well and I was so thrilled to see her go out and hit that routine. I think it'll do wonders for her confidence going forward.

Q: Talk about the exhibition competitors for a second. You've stressed how this team has depth. We've seen gymnasts like Brooke and Briley get some experience on some events over these first couple of weeks. How close are they to getting into lineups and what do you want to continue to see from them in practices?
A: I've seen outstanding, 9.850-and-better quality routines from every single one of them. The problem is, I need to see them consistently. I don't want to roll the dice when I put somebody into a lineup. Every single one of them is training hard and doing well, but we need to get to that level where consistency and quality are together.

Q: Finally, talk about this Friday against Michigan State. It's another rivalry, but it's also our first-ever Autism Awareness Meet. You've mentioned how the team has learned so much in the weeks leading up to this. How excited is the team to be able to be a part of something like this?
A: I think they're all very supportive of it and into it in a pretty major way. I think they're going to get emotional when they these exhibitions that are going to be done by some of these autistic children that will be performing. That's an awesome thing. If even one of these young women in some way, shape or form has their lives touched in the future by an autistic child, whether it's their own or a niece, nephew, cousin or friend, there are going to be benefits to having gone through this. We've all learned something and everyone that attends will learn something, too.

Behind its second-best balance beam score in the last four seasons, the Wolverines pounced Ohio State, 197.325-195.200, last Saturday (Jan. 25) at Crisler Center. [ Recap ]

Friday, Feb. 7
-- at Illinois (Champaign, Ill.), 7 p.m. CST

The All-Around (Tuesday)

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423

»  Learn about 2017 Michigan women's gymnastics ticket opportunities.