Jan. 29, 2013
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Facility: Crisler Center | Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastics Training Center
The No. 3-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) is back in action this Saturday (Feb. 2), facing Big Ten rival Iowa (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) at 4 p.m. inside Crisler Center.
Michigan comes in at No. 3 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.900). The Wolverines were ranked No. 10 in the preseason coaches poll but have been ranked in the top three through the first four weeks of the season (No. 1 on Jan. 11 and Jan. 21, No. 2 on Jan. 14). Florida is No. 1 this week (197.025), and Oklahoma is No. 2 (196.938).
The Wolverines rank among the top five nationally in three of the four events. They are tied with LSU for No. 1 average in floor exercise (49.344) while also ranking second on balance beam (49.194) and fourth on uneven bars (49.213). Michigan is also 11th on vault (49.150). Individually, junior Joanna Sampson is tied for fourth in the all-around (39.425), while senior Katie Zurales is eighth (39.408).
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||197.025, Florida||196.900 (3)|
|Vault||49.413, Florida||49.150 (11)|
|Uneven Bars||49.388, Florida||49.213 (4)|
|Balance Beam||49.288, Oklahoma||49.194 (2)|
|Floor Exercise||49.344, MICHIGAN/LSU||---|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.688, Kytra Hunter, Florida||39.425, Joanna Sampson (T-4)|
|39.408, Katie Zurales (8)|
|Vault||9.942, Kayla Slechta, Minnesota||---|
|Uneven Bars||9.925, Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto, Florida||9.850, Joanna Sampson (T-22)|
|9.850, Katie Zurales (T-22)|
|Balance Beam||9.908, Emily Wong, Nebraska||9.888, Katie Zurales (T-5)|
|9.844, Shelby Gies (T-18)|
|Floor Exercise||9.963, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||9.888, Joanna Sampson (T-13)|
|9.888, Sachi Sugiyama (T-13)|
Michigan is 42-7 all-time against Iowa. The two teams last met in a dual-meet setting on Jan. 22, 2011, with Iowa winning, 195.375-194.900, in Iowa City. Of the 49 meetings since 1979, only 15 have been in dual meets. Michigan has never lost to Iowa in a home dual meet. Prior to the 2011 loss, Michigan had won 10 straight meetings.
The Wolverines have scored more than 49.000 in all but one rotation this season (15 of 16 in four meets). The only time they scored below 49.000 was on vault at the Cancun Classic on Jan. 4, scoring 48.975.
Through four meets, Michigan is averaging a total score of 196.900, an increase of 2.519 over the same stretch last season (194.381). The Wolverines are also scoring better in all four events as opposed to last year's season averages, including positive margins on vault (+.048), uneven bars (+.352), balance beam (+.671) and floor exercise (+.594). Individually, Joanna Sampson is scoring a tenth-of-a-point better on both uneven bars (+.171) and balance beam (+.129) and nearly four-tenths better in the all-around (+.369). Other gymnasts with scoring average increases include junior Shelby Gies on both uneven bars (+.113) and balance beam (+.141), junior Stephanie Colbert on floor exercise (+.317), and senior Katie Zurales on balance beam (+.173), on floor exercise (+.164) and in the all-around (+.408).
Freshmen Briley Casanova and Austin Sheppard recorded career-high scores on vault at the Minnesota quad last Saturday (Jan. 26). Sheppard anchored the rotation with a score of 9.850, while Casanova scored 9.825. Through four meets, the four-member freshman class (which also includes Lindsay Williams and Morgan Smith) has accounted for only 12 percent of the team's lineup spots (12 of 96), meaning the remaining 84 lineup spots have been occupied by gymnasts with at least one year of collegiate experience.
Sophomore Sachi Sugiyama has finished in the top four in 11 of 12 routines on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. That includes two uneven bars titles (Jan. 4 at Cancun Classic, Jan. 12 vs. Nebraska), one floor exercise title (Jan. 4 at Cancun Classic) and one vault title (Jan. 26 at Minnesota Quad).
Through four meets this season, the Wolverines have won or shared 12 of a possible 16 event titles. Additionally, Michigan gymnasts have recorded 38 top-three finishes over the first four weeks (including ties). Joanna Sampson has won or shared six event titles, finished tied for second in two others and has two all-around titles.
After picking up two wins in the quad meet last Saturday at Minnesota, Michigan head coach Bev Plocki has 593 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 (593 of 712).
Q: You mentioned you thought the team had its best meet at Minnesota over the weekend. How did the team feel coming out of the meet despite the fact they didn't win?
A: As long as the sport of gymnastics is going to be judged subjectively, you'll have times when you'll be judged a little more generously and times when you'll be judged a little more tightly. That's the nature of our sport. I thought our performance last Saturday was as good as our best performance so far, and to compete like that on the road made me very proud. When you start a competition, your energy is high, but if you aren't getting the scores, a lot of times that can suck the energy out of a team. We didn't let that happen. Our gymnasts continued to do their job and stayed within themselves. We were putting up really, really solid routines. To come out of a competition that was strictly judged with a 196.775 on the road is a very good performance, and something that I'm very proud of.
Q: Gymnastics is a sport where truly every tenth counts and that was more evident than ever on Saturday. You lost by a quarter-of-a-tenth, the slimmest margin between victory and defeat. Did you use the outcome as a teaching moment?
A: Yeah, I think there were a lot of teaching moments. When we got together, I told them I was proud of their ability to maintain focus. They didn't let the scores they were getting deflate them or bring us down. But you're absolutely right. Every quarter-of-a-tenth matters. In this case, we came up on the short side of that, but I think the next time we are in this situation, we'll come out a quarter-of-a-tenth ahead. There are teaching moments in every competition during the season and this was one of the good ones.
Q: Sachi Sugiyama is having a great season so far. She's been placing on a consistent basis. Is that the kind of growth you expected to see from her freshman season to now as a sophomore?
A: Absolutely. She's much more of a veteran performer now. She knows how to handle pressure-filled situations better than she did last year, and she's doing a very good job for us. She'll be in and out of the beam lineup probably the rest of the season, but we're very happy with what she's been doing.
Q: You've talked about adding the freshmen to more events and increasing difficulty in routines. Will we see any of that this Saturday against Iowa?
A: We had planned on having Sachi include her pike, full-in this weekend, but that might change. She's got a sore ankle and after talking about it as a staff, it's not really worth risking something more serious. She's scoring very well with the routine she has. Annette (Miele) dinged up her ankle a bit doing her floor exercise routine against Illinois, which is what kept her out of the lineup at Minnesota. I'm not sure if she'll be back this week. There are a lot of things that go into adding difficulty into a routine. We're hoping Austin (Sheppard) can appear as an exhibition on floor and uneven bars very soon. Briley (Casanova) did an exhibition beam routine at Minnesota and did very well. I think she'll be exhibitioning floor and bars sometime very soon. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks, you'll start to see a bit more of our freshmen.
Q: What's the focus heading into this Saturday's meet? Same things?
A: Sticking landings. It has been a focus of ours all year long, but it will be even more so this week. I think that's one thing Minnesota had over us. They stuck four or five out of their six vault routines. Our vaults are bigger and stronger, but we have to be able to stick the landings. We're placing an emphasis on trying to do that as well as clean up some little foot-fault issues, be it on floor or beam. Speaking of beam, we put up seven athletes, including Briley, at Minnesota, and we didn't have one major wobble anywhere. There were tiny, little things here and there but nothing big. In an atmosphere where the pressure is maybe on you more than it is at home, I was very happy with that performance.
LAST TIME OUT
The Wolverines put up a solid road score of 196.775 but fell a quarter-of-a-tenth short of first place, finishing second to Minnesota in a quad meet last Saturday (Jan. 26) in Minneapolis, Minn. [ Recap ]
Friday, Feb. 8 -- at Ohio State (Columbus, Ohio), 7 p.m.
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423