Feb. 11, 2013
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Facility: Cliff Keen Arena | Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastics Training Center
The No. 3-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) looks to continue its high-scoring ways as it hosts Penn State (7-4, 2-2 Big Ten) on Saturday (Feb. 16) at 4 p.m. inside Cliff Keen Arena.
This is the second straight year that Michigan will hold a home meet in Cliff Keen Arena. The Wolverines beat Michigan State, 196.025-192.700, on March 16, 2012. Saturday's meet is being held in Cliff Keen Arena due to women's basketball hosting Michigan State at noon as part of Crisler Center's rededication weekend. The Michigan women's gymnastics team held its home meets inside Cliff Keen Arena from 1990-2003 before permanently moving to Crisler Center in 2004.
Michigan remains at No. 3 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.867) for the third consecutive week. The Wolverines have been ranked in the top three every week this season, including No. 1 on two occasions (Jan. 11 and Jan. 21) and also No. 2 (Jan. 14). The top two spots in the rankings continue to be held by Florida (197.296) and Oklahoma (197.125), respectively.
The Wolverines rank among the top 10 nationally in all four events. They are ranked third on both uneven bars (49.242) and balance beam (49.138), fifth on floor exercise (49.300) and 10th on vault (49.188). Individually, senior Katie Zurales is ranked ninth in the all-around (39.400). Junior Joanna Sampson is 12th (39.338).
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. The RQS is important for two reasons. First, in the Big Ten, the teams with the highest four RQS scores will compete in the evening session (6 p.m.) of the Big Ten Championships on March 23 in East Lansing, Mich. Second, the top 18 teams will be seeded on a national basis (determined by RQS) for NCAA Regionals.
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. Michigan currently has an RQS of 196.770. [ Rankings ]
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|Team Average||197.296, Florida||196.867 (3)|
|Vault||49.421, Florida||49.188 (10)|
|Uneven Bars||49.429, Florida||49.242 (3)|
|Balance Beam||49.358, Oklahoma||49.138 (3)|
|Floor Exercise||49.325, LSU/UCLA||49.300 (5)|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.613, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||39.400, Katie Zurales (9)|
|39.338, Joanna Sampson (12)|
|Vault||9.955, Tory Wilson, Utah||---|
|Uneven Bars||9.907, Chelsea Davis, Georgia||9.900, Natalie Beilstein (2)|
|9.867, Joanna Sampson (T-12)|
|9.850, Katie Zurales (T-17)|
|9.846, Sachi Sugiyama (25)|
|Balance Beam||9.900, Taylor Spears, Oklahoma||9.875, Briley Casanova (T-9)|
|9.858, Katie Zurales (14)|
|9.838, Brittnee Martinez (T-22)|
|Floor Exercise||9.944, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||9.900, Joanna Sampson (T-5)|
Michigan is 37-8 all-time against Penn State. The Wolverines won 28 consecutive meetings from 1992-2006. U-M is 9-4 in its last 13 meetings against the Nittany Lions. The two teams split last season, with Michigan finishing higher at the Big Ten Championships (195.875-195.700) on March 24, 2012, but Penn State winning the regular-season meeting (196.000-195.900) on March 2. Penn State is not ranked in the top 25 but is ranked 10th on uneven bars (48.946) and 18th on vault (49.017). The Nittany Lions are led by senior Sharaya Musser, the 2012 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year.
The Wolverines recorded their highest road score of the season last Saturday (Feb. 8) at Ohio State (196.925). It is also Michigan's highest road score in a dual meet since Feb. 22, 2008, at North Carolina State (197.125).
The Wolverines' uneven bars score of 49.375 at Ohio State also ties for the team's highest mark since 2009 (49.425). They also scored 49.375 at the NCAA Semifinals on April 15, 2011. Four U-M gymnasts are ranked nationally in that event, including senior Natalie Beilstein (2nd - 9.900), junior Joanna Sampson (T-12th - 9.867), senior Katie Zurales (T-17th - 9.850) and sophomore Sachi Sugiyama (25th - 9.846).
Senior Katie Zurales won her second all-around title of the season at Ohio State last Friday (Feb. 8), scoring 39.375. She also won the vault title (9.925). She now has five all-around titles for her career and six individual event crowns this season.
Junior Joanna Sampson has the fourth-best all-around performance in the nation this season (39.600, set Feb. 2 vs. Iowa), trailing only Florida's Kytra Hunter (39.700), UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa and Florida's Bridget Sloan (39.675), and Nebraska's Emily Wong and Florida's Ashanee Dickerson (39.650). Sampson is the third U-M gymnast since 2004 to post an all-around score of 39.600 or better (Kylee Botterman in 2010 and 2011, Sarah Curtis in 2008). This season, Sampson has won or shared 12 event titles (four on floor exercise, four on uneven bars, three on vault, one on balance beam) and has three all-around wins (Cancun Classic, Nebraska, Iowa).
Senior Natalie Beilstein was in the uneven bars lineup at Ohio State for the first time this season. She scored a career-high 9.900, a full tenth-of-a-point better than her previous best. Beilstein is also ranked second in the nation on uneven bars based on that performance.
Two of U-M's four freshmen were in the official lineup at Ohio State. Briley Casanova was in the lineup on balance beam for the first time this season, tying for the event title (9.875). Austin Sheppard anchored vault, finishing second (9.875). This season, freshmen have accounted for just 11 percent (16 of 144) the team's lineup spots, meaning 89 percent (128 of 144) have been held by upperclassmen.
The Wolverines have scored at or above 49.000 in five consecutive meets (and in 23 of 24 total rotations). The only time the Wolverines have scored below 49.000 came on vault at the Cancun Classic on Jan. 4 (49.875). Additionally, U-M gymnasts have won or shared 20 of a possible 24 event titles (including ties).
With the win over Ohio State, Michigan head coach Bev Plocki has 595 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 (595 of 714).
Following this Saturday's meet against Penn State, Michigan will be on the road for three consecutive meets: Feb. 24 at West Virginia, March 2 at Michigan State, March 10 at UCLA. Its final home meet prior to the Big Ten Championships will be March 16 vs. Iowa State, which will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Q: We're now officially more than halfway done with the regular season. Grade your team's performance thus far.
A: I would say A-minus. I think that they've done a very good job. I wouldn't really want them to be an A-plus at this point in time. We still have a lot of little things in each meet that we can certainly go back and point to; you know, 'Our team score could be higher if we did X, Y and Z.' That's a good thing. It keeps a team motivated, hungry, and they work harder in the gym as a result.
Q: Last Monday, you said the team didn't have its crispest performance against Iowa. How do you feel they responded at Ohio State over the weekend?
A: I think there were certain things we cleaned up and did a better job of. I thought we did a good job on floor. Uneven bars was very good. Every situation is different. What I would expect out of a home meet in terms of crispness is much different than what it would be if we were away. This was the first away meet we had that was a dual, so this was the first time we finished on balance beam. Beam is the hardest event to start or end on. I'd rather end on it than start on it. That was the first time we experienced that. We didn't count any falls. We had a few wobbles, but that's the nature of the event. Overall, I am very happy with our performance, but you can always point to a few things to clean up.
Q: In that meet, the team was put in a position it hadn't been in yet this season with regard to finishing up on balance beam. It's arguably the most difficult and even in that situation when the pressure is on, you had two people in Briley Casanova and Katie Zurales really step up and deliver.
A: Absolutely. It was great to see Briley step up and do what we know she's capable of doing. She had been a little inconsistent in training up to that point. We had her exhibition twice. She hit one time and fell the other. Again, the plan was to rest some people in competition last week. We put Briley into that situation and said, 'We need you to hit a routine,' and she stepped up and did a great job.
Q: We saw the early results stemming from your strategy to rest certain gymnasts, mainly Reema (Zaharia), Brittnee (Martinez) and Stephanie (Colbert), at Ohio State. What can the fans expect to see this Saturday?
A: I think you'll see those people back in. We just met this morning, so I'm not 100 percent sure. It's only Monday. I think Reema will most definitely be back in on floor. Stephanie should be vaulting and continue to be on floor. Brittnee should be back on bars. In terms of who might rest, we have a few possibilities. I'll have to talk to those individuals and the staff. Again, the hope is that over the next few weeks, the lineup will look a little bit different each week.
Q: Lastly, in talking about Saturday's meet against Penn State, we're going back to Cliff Keen Arena. Does changing the venue present any different challenges from a competition standpoint?
A: The atmosphere. It's a much smaller arena. Last year, we competed there, and it was incredibly hot. It's just different. Our kids actually did not have a problem competing there last year. They enjoyed it. When Cliff Keen gets full, the energy ramps up, and that's what we want from our fans. We want them to be loud.
Q: Any good memories from coaching teams in Cliff Keen?
A: Oh, there's a lot! Some good and some not so good, but a lot of memories regardless. I have to remind myself that none of these athletes know anything about any of that. I'm sure our alumni have a lot. It's nostalgic for them to see our team competing in what they knew as their home venue. We just try to treat it like any other meet, look at the positives and overcome things that aren't ideal.
LAST TIME OUT
Katie Zurales won the all-around (39.375) and was one of four different U-M gymnasts to win or share an event title in Michigan's 196.925-196.250 victory over No. 20 Ohio State last Friday (Feb. 8). [ Recap ]
Sunday, Feb. 24 -- at West Virginia, vs. New Hampshire, vs. Towson (Morgantown, W.Va.), 2 p.m.
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423