Feb. 19, 2013
With the halfway point in the season passed, the No. 3-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) begins a three-week stretch of road meets this Sunday (Feb. 24), facing No. 25 West Virginia (6-5), New Hampshire (9-3) and Towson (7-7) in a quad meet in Morgantown, W.Va. The meet will begin at 2 p.m. at WVU Coliseum.
The meet is a homecoming for head coach Bev Plocki, a graduate of West Virginia -- both B.S. and Master's.
Michigan remains at No. 3 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.939) for the fourth 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 (197.171), respectively. [ Rankings ]
The Wolverines rank among the top 10 nationally in all four events, including tops in the nation on floor exercise (49.346). They are also ranked third on balance beam (49.125), fourth on uneven bars (49.261) and eighth on vault (49.207). Individually, senior Katie Zurales and junior Joanna Sampson are ranked seventh (39.400) and eighth (49.375), respectively, in the all-around.
Including its scores from last Saturday's meet against Penn State, Michigan upped its scoring averages in four areas: team average (196.867 to 196.939), vault (49.188 to 49.207), uneven bars (49.242 to 49.261) and floor exercise (49.300 to 49.346).
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|Team Average||197.296, Florida||196.939 (3)|
|Vault||49.429, Florida||49.207 (8)|
|Uneven Bars||49.421, Florida||49.261 (4)|
|Balance Beam||49.350, Oklahoma||49.125 (3)|
|Floor Exercise||49.346, MICHIGAN||--|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.595, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||39.400, Katie Zurales (7)|
|39.375, Joanna Sampson (8)|
|Vault||9.954, Tory Wilson, Utah||---|
|Uneven Bars||9.912, Chelsea Davis, Georgia||9.875, Joanna Sampson (T-6)|
|9.858, Brittnee Martinez (T-16)|
|9.854, Sachi Sugiyama (20)|
|Balance Beam||9.893, Mackenzie Caquatto, Florida||9.857, Katie Zurales (13)|
|9.846, Brittnee Martinez (17)|
|Floor Exercise||9.930, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||9.911, Joanna Sampson (2)|
|9.875, Briley Casanova (T-15)|
|9.867, Katie Zurales (25)|
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.
The Wolverines also raised their RQS from 196.770 to 196.905. 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. The team's RQS for this week is based on its results from the following meets:
1. 197.375 - Feb. 16 vs. Penn State
2. 197.350 - Jan. 19 vs. Illinois
3. 196.925 - Feb. 8 at Ohio State
4. 196.900 - Jan. 12 vs. Nebraska
5. 196.775 - Jan. 26 at Minnesota, vs. Central Michigan, vs. Iowa State
6. 196.575 - Jan. 4 at Cancun Classic
The Wolverines are 20-4 all-time against West Virginia. The two teams met twice last season, with Michigan winning both the regular-season meeting (194.650-194.050 on Feb. 3 in Ann Arbor) and in the postseason (196.325-195.900 on April 7 at the NCAA Auburn Regional). U-M has won eight straight meetings in the series. All four losses to the Mountaineers have come in dual meets. Michigan is 1-1 against Towson (last meeting in Jan. 11, 1997) and 10-1 against New Hampshire (last meeting Feb. 5, 2011).
Michigan tied a new school record for highest floor exercise rotation last Saturday (Feb. 16) vs. Penn State, scoring 49.625, a record that was previously set on March 9, 2002, in a tri-meet vs. Denver and Washington. A trio of gymnasts (Natalie Beilstein, Stephanie Colbert, Reema Zakharia) each scored 9.900, followed by Katie Zurales at 9.950 and Joanna Sampson at 9.975. Sampson received a perfect 10.0 from Level 10 judge Richard Seibel for her routine.
The Wolverines' team score of 197.375 against Penn State is a new season-high score and also the program's highest since March 7, 2008, vs. Georgia (197.600). Michigan has two scores of 197.000 or higher this season, the other coming on Jan. 19 vs. Illinois (197.350). The last time U-M had scored above 197.000 in two home meets in the same season was 2008.
Junior Joanna Sampson was named Big Ten co-Women's Gymnast of the Week and senior Brittnee Martinez was named Co-Event Specialist of the Week on Tuesday. Sampson earns the honor for the third time this season after winning her fourth all-around title of the season (39.600) last Saturday (Feb. 16) against Penn State. Martinez finished first on both uneven bars (9.950) and balance beam (9.900) against the Nittany Lions, setting career highs in each event. [ Release ]
The all-around win against Penn State for Joanna Sampson is the eighth of her career. Her score of 39.600 ties a career high, matching the score she received on Feb. 2 vs. Iowa. She is the first U-M gymnast since Elise Ray in 2004 to have two or more all-around scores of 39.600 in the same season. Additionally, that is also tied for the fourth-highest all-around performance in the nation this season. She has won the all-around title in four of seven meets this season (Jan. 4 at Cancun Classic, Jan. 12 vs. Nebraska, Feb. 2 vs. Iowa, Feb. 16 vs. Penn State) and has won or shared 13 event titles (five on floor exercise, four on uneven bars, three on vault, one on balance beam).
The wins on uneven bars and balance beam were the first of the season for Brittnee Martinez. She has averaged 9.858 on uneven bars and 9.846 on balance beam this season. Other gymnasts that tied or set new career-high scores vs. Penn State include Stephanie Colbert (9.900 - floor exercise), Sachi Sugiyama (9.900 - uneven bars, tie) and Katie Zurales (9.950 - floor exercise, tie).
The Wolverines have scored at or above 49.000 in six straight meets (and in 27 of 28 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 23 of a possible 28 event titles (including ties).
With the win over Penn State, Michigan head coach Bev Plocki has 596 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 (596 of 715). Plocki will be the third active NCAA D-I women's gymnastics coach to reach the 600-win plateau, joining Greg Marsden (Utah) and D.D. Breaux (LSU). Some schools do not count wins in the postseason towards the total.
Q: First things first. Talk about that floor exercise rotation against Penn State. Tied for the program best. Considering you only led by a tenth heading into that final rotation, watching them perform the way they did had to be fun to watch as a coach.
A: It was awesome. One of the parents came up to me after the meet and said, "It's cool that Joanna (Sampson) goes up last, and she has to score at least a 9.9 to even count toward the team score in the rotation." We know what we're capable of. We have been working really hard on holding landings. On Saturday, we just said, "We need to go close this competition," and they did. They did a great job.
Q: And the rest of the meet?
A: Overall, I thought it was very good. We had a few jittery beam routines, but we didn't fall there. But to go over and close out the competition on floor the way we did was great to see. You learn a lot about your team in close competitions, and I was very pleased with the way they responded.
Q: Last week, you talked about how competing in Keen can give a team more energy due to the fans being closer and more packed in. Do you think that made a difference on floor during that last rotation?
A: I think so. I thought the energy in Cliff Keen was fantastic. Going into this competition, regardless of where it was held, we felt confident we'd do well. I think our confidence has grown every meet. I was sick all week and had no voice. When we got together and the end, I told our captains to take it over and they said, "This is our night. We're going to go out and do this, and it's going to be the best meet of the season." We were amped for the competition and it showed.
Q: There were several gymnasts that had great meets against Penn State, but two that stand out are Brittnee Martinez and Stephanie Colbert. Talk about their performances against the Nittany Lions.
A: To start the competition with Stephanie's vault was excellent. That might be the only vault I've ever seen her stick cold. Our team was so incredibly excited for her and so was she. To start out with a 9.875 for our first routine was pretty awesome. We were able to get her some rest in the weeks prior, and that routine was her first in some time. Needless to say, that's a great way to come back. Brittnee had a great night, too. Her uneven bars routine was flawless, one of the best I've seen her do. On beam, our first two routines were okay, but they weren't awesome. Joanna (Sampson) did a good job in the third spot. Then Brittne goes up in the fourth position and just rocked it. We changed her dismount, too. The old dismount off the side was hurting her knee a little bit, and this was the second time that she's performed her new one. To do a routine of that quality and stick the dismount was pretty great to see.
Q: The team has four meets left for the regular season, the next three of which are on the road. As you near the home stretch, does the focus on a meet-by-meet basis change any?
A: We've already gone to Ohio State, which is one of the possible sites for NCAA Regionals, and now we're going to West Virginia, which is another potential Regionals site. These road meets are great chances for us to get in those venues and get experience. Right now, it's a battle for RQS scores. We have some great home scores. I think our lowest-counted score is a 196.900. We've got three opportunities in a row here to get some away scores into the 197.00s, and I think we're pretty pumped up to make that our goal.
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan tied a program high on floor exercise, and Joanna Sampson won the all-around in a 197.375-196.700 victory over Penn State last Saturday (Feb. 16) in front of a sellout crowd at Cliff Keen Arena. [ Recap | Photo Gallery | Highlights ]
Saturday, March 2 -- at Michigan State (East Lansing, Mich.), 4 p.m.
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423