Feb. 11, 2014
In a titanic top-10 match-up featuring two undefeated teams, the No. 8-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (8-0, 3-0 Big Ten) heads to Lincoln, Neb., on Friday (Feb. 14) to tangle with No. 7 Nebraska (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) inside the Devaney Center. The meet will begin at 6 p.m. CST.
The meet will be shown on tape-delay by the Big Ten Network on Saturday (Feb. 15) at 11 a.m. The meet will also be shown live online and on mobile devices via BTN2Go. Lisa Byington (play-by-play) and former U.S. Olympian Shawn Johnson (analyst) will be on the call.
The Wolverines fell two spots to No. 8 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.650). On the events, Michigan is ranked seventh on floor exercise (49.230), eighth on uneven bars (49.160), ninth on vault (49.250) and 10th on balance beam (49.010). Individually, Joanna Sampson is fifth in the all-around (39.475), tied for fourth on floor exercise (9.925) and 21st on balance beam (9.835). Austin Sheppard is tied for 12th on vault (9.900) and Natalie Beilstein, who did not compete last week, is 14th on uneven bars (9.875).
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, which is calculated by taking a team's 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 ]
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|Team Average||197.365, Florida||196.650 (8)|
|Vault||49.495, Utah||49.250 (9)|
|Uneven Bars||49.432, Georgia||49.160 (8)|
|Balance Beam||49.330, Florida||49.010 (10)|
|Floor Exercise||49.430, Utah||49.230 (7)|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.540, Bridget Sloan, Florida||39.475, Joanna Sampson (5)|
|Vault||9.930, Bridget Sloan, Florida||9.900, Austin Sheppard (T-12)|
|Uneven Bars||9.940, Georgia Dabritz, Utah||9.875, Natalie Beilstein (14)|
|Balance Beam||9.938, Sam Peszek, UCLA||9.835, Joanna Sampson (21)|
|Floor Exercise||9.950, Kytra Hunter, Florida||9.925, Joanna Sampson (T-4)|
The Cornhuskers come in at No. 7 in this week's rankings (196.705), one spot ahead of Michigan. They are tied for fourth on balance beam (49.145), tied for sixth on vault (49.285), eighth on floor exercise (49.220) and 11th on uneven bars (49.055). The two-time defending Big Ten champion, Nebraska has increased its scoring output in each of the last four meets, peaking in last Saturday's 197.225-196.150 win at Penn State. The Cornhuskers are led on the floor by senior Emily Wong and junior Jessie DeZiel, both NCAA All-Americans last season.
Series: Michigan is 19-18-1 all-time against Nebraska. The Wolverines won two of the three meetings last season, taking the regular-season meeting, 196.900-196.300, on Jan. 12 in Ann Arbor and finishing higher at the NCAA Morgantown Regional, 196.725-195.875. Michigan last made the trip to Lincoln on Feb. 11, 2012, and finished second as part of the Master's Classic. The Wolverines' last win in Lincoln came on Feb. 7, 2008 (196.575-196.075).
For the third time in five weeks, Nicole Artz was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday (Feb. 10). She is the fourth U-M gymnast to pick up the honor since its inception in 2010 (Natalie Beilstein, Sachi Sugiyama, Brittnee Martinez).
Both Michigan and Nebraska are tied atop the Big Ten standings at 3-0. Friday's meet could ultimately determine who wins the Big Ten regular-season championship, as the winner will be in sole possession of first place with only the Big Ten Quad (March 15). Michigan will host Minnesota, Penn State and Iowa, while Nebraska will travel to Michigan State (with Illinois and Ohio State).
To date, Michigan and Nebraska have been the top two teams in the Big Ten, foreshadowing what could be a close meet on Friday. The scoring averages between the two teams are very similar, as they are within one tenth-of-a-point in three categories:
|Scoring Average||196.650||196.705||NEB, +.055|
|Uneven Bars||49.160||49.055||MICH, +.105|
|Balance Beam||49.010||49.145||NEB, +.135|
|Floor Exercise||49.230||49.220||MICH, +.010|
The meet will also feature two of the nation's top all-arounders in Joanna Sampson and Emily Wong (Nebraska). Wong is third in the nation with an average of 39.525, while Sampson is fifth (39.475). The two gymnasts tied for third in the all-around at last season's NCAA Championships, each earning NCAA All-America first team honors (scored 39.525). Additionally, both Sampson and Wong have won or tied for first in both the all-around and on floor exercise in every meet this season.
Joanna Sampson has won the all-around in her last nine regular-season meets, including all five this season. Over that stretch, she is averaging 39.522 in the all-around, scoring 39.600 or better in four of those meets. For her career, Sampson has scored better than 39.000 in 25 meets, amassing 17 all-around titles and 44 individual-event titles.
Last Friday (Feb. 7) at Illinois, the Wolverines failed to crack 196.000 for the first time since March 24, 2012, at the Big Ten Championships, a stretch of 19 meets. It was also the first time in seven meets that U-M failed to reach 49.000 on uneven bars.
Through four meets, Michigan has scored above 49.000 in 15 of 20 rotations, while gymnasts have won 19 of 20 individual event titles and all five all-around crowns (Joanna Sampson).
Q: In talking about last Friday's meet, how quickly do you put something like that behind you?
A: Immediately. There's no point in dwelling on anything from that meet, whether it was the performance opportunities or the judging. It doesn't do us any good to live in the past. We want to instead use that as fuel heading into this weekend.
Q: Can you use a result like that as motivation? Surely the team has to be fired up to get back in the gym and especially get back out there and compete on Friday.
A: Absolutely. We're going into this weekend off a season low by almost a point and not having counted a fall during that performance. Nebraska is coming off of their season high and they're going to be at home. They certainly have to be feeling good about themselves. We have to embrace the challenge going into this weekend.
Q: Talk for a moment about Shelby and Briley on balance beam. Shelby said she was feeling pretty confident going into that Illinois meet after coming off a fall the week before, while Briley was sort of thrown in at the last minute and hit a routine to win the meet. Different situations for both, but they both delivered.
A: Shelby looked aggressive and confident and her score reflected that. Briley has been a real champ having been thrown into the mix unexpectedly on two occasions now. That's why we warm up the way we do. We talk about it all the time at practice. You warm up as if you're going to compete. We wanted to give Austin the exhibition position to get some more competitive experience, whereas Briley has that already. If something happened in the lineup, Briley was going to go it. It wasn't even a question. She took off her warm-ups, got her 30-second touch in and went.
Q: You mentioned to the team that you want to treat this Friday's meet at Nebraska as a Big Ten Championship meet. With that said, how intense do you expect these practices to be?
A: Very intense. The fire is there. I know our kids are excited going into this weekend. I don't think there'll be any problem with our intensity level.
Q: As you've mentioned in the past, one of the biggest challenges of competing on the road is the environment, from the different equipment, to the lighting, to the fans. But this especially this year, having a lot of meets on Fridays means one less day of training. Has that made any impact on preparation? Do you feel like you have to go harder in training because there's one less day?
A: It does limit us. Normally, we want to get two days in on vault and two days in on floor and alternate days. This season, we have a number of Friday night meets back-to-back-to-back. It forces us to change the way we do things. And it's not like there's just one individual week with only three days. You have to make use of the days you have. Every assignment we do is based on some sort of quality incentive with the numbers. I'm a believer that if you can do two routines every day that are awesome on every event, your confidence is going to be good and that's all you need to do. If you do six instead of two, it's going to make you reserve energy and not do that routine to the fullest. In a meet, it's the first attempt that matters, not the sixth. You don't get five routines to warm-up for one good one.
LAST TIME OUT
Despite tight judging for both sides, Michigan got an important road victory, 195.800-195.575, last Friday (Feb. 7) in Champaign, Ill. [ Recap ]
Friday, Feb. 21 -- vs. Oklahoma, Alabama, West Virginia - Perfect 10 Challenge (Oklahoma City, Okla.), 7 p.m.
OTHER RELATED LINKS
The All-Around (Tuesday)
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423