Feb. 4, 2013
The No. 3-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) hits the halfway point of the 2013 season this weekend, reigniting its rivalry with No. 20 Ohio State (3-2, 2-1 Big Ten) on Friday (Feb. 8) in Columbus, Ohio. The meet will begin at 7 p.m. inside St. John Arena.
Michigan remains at No. 3 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.855). The Wolverines have been ranked in the top three through the first five weeks of the season (No. 1 on Jan. 11 and Jan. 21, No. 2 on Jan. 14). The top two spots in the rankings continue to be held by Florida (197.135) and Oklahoma (197.025).
The Wolverines rank among the top 10 nationally in all four events, including a top-three ranking in three of them. They are ranked second on balance beam (49.155), third on both uneven bars (49.215) and floor exercise (49.310) and ninth on vault (49.175). Individually, junior Joanna Sampson ranks sixth in the all-around (39.460), while senior Katie Zurales is 10th (39.406).
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||197.135, Florida||196.855 (3)|
|Vault||49.410, Florida||49.175 (9)|
|Uneven Bars||49.400, Florida||49.215 (3)|
|Balance Beam||49.325, Oklahoma||49.155 (2)|
|Floor Exercise||49.319, UCLA||49.310 (3)|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.688, Kytra Hunter, Florida||39.460, Joanna Sampson (6)|
|39.406, Katie Zurales (10)|
|Vault||9.944, Tory Wilson, Utah||---|
|Uneven Bars||9.908, Chelsea Davis, Georgia||9.860, Joanna Sampson (17)|
|9.850, Katie Zurales (T-19)|
|Balance Beam||9.900, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||9.880, Katie Zurales (8)|
|9.840, Joanna Sampson (24)|
|Floor Exercise||9.950, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||9.895, Joanna Sampson (7)|
Michigan is 39-22 all-time against Ohio State. The two teams split last season, with the Wolverines winning the regular season meeting, 195.500-195.175, in Ann Arbor (Jan. 13, 2012), but the Buckeyes finished higher at the Big Ten Championships, 196.225-195.875. Prior to that defeat at the Big Ten Championships, Michigan had won 38 straight meetings. U-M head coach Bev Plocki has a 37-3 record against Ohio State, which includes just one dual meet loss that came in her first season as head coach (Feb. 11, 1990).
The Buckeyes are ranked No. 20 this week, averaging 195.035. They are ranked 16th on vault (49.000), 21st on uneven bars (48.770) and 24th on balance beam (48.695). Ohio State is led by junior Sarah Miller, who ranks 11th nationally on vault, and is tied for 14th on both balance beam and floor exercise.
Junior Joanna Sampson was named Big Ten Women's Gymnast of the Week for the second time this season after winning all four event titles and posting a new career-high score in the all-around against Iowa last Saturday (Feb. 2). Her all-around score of 39.600 against the Hawkeyes ranks as the fourth-best performance in the country this season, behind only Florida's Kytra Hunter (39.700), UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa (39.675) and Nebraska's Emily Wong (39.650). Additionally, she is the third gymnast since 2004 to post an all-around score of 39.600 or better. The others were Kylee Botterman (39.675 vs. Illinois in 2010; 39.625 at Michigan Tri in 2011) and Sarah Curtis (39.600 vs. Georgia in 2008). Her previous career-high score in the all-around was 39.550, set two weeks ago vs. Illinois (Jan. 19, 2013). This season, Sampson has won or shared 10 event titles, finished second in two others and has three first-place finishes in the all-around. [ Release ]
Michigan has scored at or above 49.000 in all four apparatuses in every meet this season. The Wolverines have scored below 49.000 in only one rotation this season, scoring 48.975 on vault at the Cancun Classic on Jan. 4. Also, Michigan gymnasts have won or shared 16 of a possible 20 event titles (including ties).
Through five meets, Michigan is averaging a total score of 196.855, an increase of 2.185 over the same stretch last season (194.670). The Wolverines are also scoring better in all four events as opposed to last season's cumulative average, including positive margins on vault (+.073), uneven bars (+.354), balance beam (+.632) and floor exercise (+.560).
Junior Reema Zakharia was in the lineup on three events last Saturday against Iowa for the second time in her career. She tied for fourth on floor exercise (9.825) and also performed on vault (9.750) and balance beam (9.675).
Senior Brittnee Martinez has been in the lineup on uneven bars and balance beam in all five meets this season. She has scored above 9.800 in every routine on each of those apparatuses this season.
Sophomore Annette Miele returned to the lineup against Iowa after sitting out the previous meet at Minnesota (Jan. 26). She was in the lineup on uneven bars (9.800) and balance beam (9.125).
Freshman Austin Sheppard was the only Michigan freshman to appear in any lineup last Saturday against Iowa, appearing on vault to tie for fourth (9.825). Two others -- Briley Casanova and Lindsay Williams -- were exhibition competitors.
With the win over Iowa, Michigan head coach Bev Plocki has 594 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 (594 of 713).
Michigan will compete on the road in four of its final six regular-season meets. Each of the four sites could also be potential postseason destinations. Michigan State (March 2) will host the Big Ten Championships (March 23), Ohio State and West Virginia (Feb. 24) are host sites for the NCAA Regional Championships, and UCLA (March 10) will host the NCAA Championships (April 19-21).
Q: Why did you feel your team had a below-average performance last Saturday against Iowa?
A: I didn't think we had a bad meet. We just were not as clean and not as sharp as we have been previously. We still didn't count any falls or any major breaks, and that's something most teams would be very satisfied with. I felt that compared with some of our other performances this season, we didn't execute as well. The first two beam routines weren't our best, but I was extremely proud of the back four. They did a great job. Floor was a little up and down, too. We'll learn from it.
Q: What does it say about your team that they didn't perform their best but still managed to come away with a decent score? There's something to be said about this team's resilience.
A: Everything I've seen so far this season indicates to me that we have a very good team, one that is very determined and mentally tough. That's all really good. You take away something to learn from every meet. The first couple of meets, it's easy to be energized. We're already a third of the way through the season now. This is the time when it starts to become work. Bodies aren't as fresh. There's a sore ankle here, a sore shoulder there. Not to the extent of being injured, but your body starts to feel the wear and tear. This is when maintaining the positive energy, focus and our attention to detail becomes a bit harder. We have to work at it. We can't just expect it to be there. I think that's what we learned from this last meet. When it's not easy, we have to work harder.
Q: Reema Zakharia was in the lineup on three events against Iowa. In the past, she's mainly been a floor exercise specialist, but now she's someone you can go to on upwards of three events. Talk about her progression.
A: She's done a really great job. Unfortunately, she's got a bit of a leg problem. I wouldn't call it an injury, but we have to monitor it and be careful going forward. I would expect to see her in and out of the lineup depending on where we feel like we need to rest her. Her primary event of importance is floor. If we can use her on beam and/or vault when we're trying to rest someone else, then we want her to be ready for that. Certainly, we think we can count on her to do that, but I don't think we can get her through the season if we use her on three events in every meet.
Q: Talk about what the next few meets look like. We'll be competing on the road, but in terms of potential lineup changes, what do you foresee happening and who do you see stepping in?
A: We're going to start to see a few other people participating. Our strategy for the next month is to hopefully have additional people prepared and ready to go, so we can strategically rest others from the lineup. You're going to start to see a few more faces. It's very probable that we'll see Natalie (Beilstein) in the uneven bars lineup soon. It's also probable that we'll see Briley (Casanova) and Austin (Sheppard) making debuts, whether it's an exhibition or in the actual lineup. Lindsay (Williams) has had some opportunities and will continue to receive them. These next three-to-four weeks the plan is to see some changes.
Q: Friday's opponent, Ohio State, is obviously a very familiar one. It's a high-intensity rivalry in any sport. You know that Ohio State will be fired up to host not only the No. 3 team in the country but also its main rival. What do you tell your team to prepare for that this week?
A: I think that this team is a team that will rise to the occasion under those circumstances. Like any team here at Michigan, we don't like to get beat by Ohio State. It's a great rivalry. We know Ohio State typically performs well at home. We know that we have to be at our best to be able to go in there and pull out a victory. This team is up for that challenge.
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan won its 14th straight home dual meet against a Big Ten team with a 196.675-195.200 victory over Iowa last Saturday (Feb. 2) at Crisler Center. [ Recap :: Postmeet Video: Bev Plocki | Joanna Sampson ]
Saturday, Feb. 16 -- vs. Penn State (Cliff Keen Arena), 4 p.m.
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423