Feb. 26, 2013
The No. 3-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (12-1, 5-1 Big Ten) looks to continue its run of state dominance this week, taking on in-state rival Michigan State (1-7, 0-6 Big Ten) on Saturday (March 2) in East Lansing, Mich. The meet will begin at 4 p.m. inside Jenison Field House, the site of next month's Big Ten Championships.
Should Michigan win, it would be the 600th career victory for head coach Bev Plocki. She would be the third active NCAA D-I women's gymnastics head coach to reach the plateau, joining Greg Marsden (Utah) and D.D. Breaux (LSU). Some schools (ex. Alabama, UCLA) do not count postseason wins towards the overall total.
Michigan remains at No. 3 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.939) for the fifth 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). Oklahoma is the new No. 1 (197.410), while Florida is No. 2 (197.280). [ Rankings ]
The Wolverines rank among the top 10 nationally and lead the Big Ten in all four events. They are second on floor exercise (49.365), fourth on uneven bars (49.245), tied for fourth on balance beam (49.160) and seventh on vault (49.295). Individually, senior Katie Zurales and junior Joanna Sampson are ranked in the top 10 in the all-around, coming in at seventh (39.365) and 10th (39.325), respectively.
Five of the top 11 gymnasts ranked in the all-around are from the Big Ten Conference, including Nebraska's Emily Wong (fifth), Illinois' Alina Weinstein (eighth) and Penn State's Sharaya Musser (11th). The only other school in the nation to have two or more all-arounders ranked in the top 10 nationally is Oklahoma, which has three (Taylor Spears is 2nd, Brie Olson is 4th, Erica Brewer is 9th).
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|Team Average||197.410, Oklahoma||196.975 (3)|
|Vault||49.455, Florida||49.295 (7)|
|Uneven Bars||49.435, Florida||49.245 (4)|
|Balance Beam||49.395, Oklahoma||49.160 (T-4)|
|Floor Exercise||49.400, LSU||49.365 (2)|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.590, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA||39.365, Katie Zurales (7)|
|39.325, Joanna Sampson (10)|
|Vault||9.945, Tory Wilson, Utah||9.880, Katie Zurales (T-22)|
|Uneven Bars||9.935, Chelsea Davis, Georgia||9.880, Joanna Sampson (T-10)|
|9.855, Sachi Sugiyama (T-20)|
|9.850, Katie Zurales (T-24)|
|Balance Beam||9.915, Taylor Spears, Oklahoma||9.880, Katie Zurales (7)|
|9.845, Brittnee Martinez (22)|
|9.840, Joanna Sampson (T-23)|
|Floor Exercise||9.925, Lloimincia Hall, LSU||9.920, Joanna Sampson (3)|
|9.870, Natalie Beilstein (T-22)|
Beginning today (Feb. 25), the rankings switched over from season scoring average to Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). 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. Factoring in its score from last Sunday (Feb. 24) at West Virginia, Michigan raised its RQS from 196.905 to 196.975. Its score from West Virginia is now calculated in its RQS, while the team's 196.575 score from Jan. 4 at the Cancun Classic was dropped.
The team's RQS for this week is based on its results from the following meets:
1. 197.375 - Feb. 16 vs. Penn State (H)
2. 197.350 - Jan. 19 vs. Illinois (H)
3. 196.925 - Feb. 8 at Ohio State (A)
4. 196.925 - Feb. 24 at West Virginia, New Hampshire, Towson (A)
5. 196.900 - Jan. 12 vs. Nebraska (H)
6. 196.775 - Jan. 26 at Minnesota, vs. Central Michigan, vs. Iowa State (A)
Michigan is 60-38 all-time vs. Michigan State, winning 15 straight meetings. Head coach Bev Plocki has an all-time record of 59-8 against the Spartans, with only four losses since 1993. The two teams met three times last season, with Michigan winning the head-to-head meeting (196.025-192.700) on March 16, 2012, at the Big Ten Championships (195.875-194.675) and at NCAA Regionals (196.325-194.050). The Spartans are averaging 193.700 this season but recently put up a season-best score of 196.000 in a loss at Penn State last Saturday (Feb. 23).
Michigan State is the last Big Ten opponent on the Wolverines' schedule prior to the Big Ten Championships on March 23. Michigan is 5-1 against Big Ten teams this season, with its only loss coming by a quarter-of-a-tenth (196.800-196.775) to Minnesota on Jan. 26. New this season, every Big Ten team was required to compete against each other.
The Wolverines are averaging 196.800 through four road meets this season. Their top road score is 196.925, which they have gotten on two occasions this season (Feb. 8 at Ohio State, Feb. 24 at West Virginia). It is Michigan's highest road score in a dual meet since Feb. 22, 2008, at North Carolina State (197.125).
Junior Joanna Sampson also won two events at West Virginia, taking first on uneven bars (9.875) and tied for first on floor exercise (9.950). This season, Michigan gymnasts have won or shared 27 of a possible 32 event titles (84 percent), with Sampson and Zurales combining for 22 of them.
Upperclassmen (sophomores, juniors, seniors) have accounted for 88 percent (170 of 192) of the team's lineup spots in its eight meets this season. Only 12 percent (22 of 192) lineup spots have been occupied by freshmen.
The Wolverines scored a season-best 49.400 on vault at West Virginia (Feb. 24) and also recorded their second-highest balance beam score (49.250).
The win over West Virginia gave Michigan its 10th, 11th and 12th victories of the season. The Wolverines have reached double-digit wins in 23 consecutive seasons (postseason included), a streak that began in 1991.
The Wolverines' score of 48.825 on uneven bars at West Virginia snapped the team's streak of scoring above 49.000 in every rotation in the last six meets. Michigan has scored above 49.000 in 30 of 32 rotations this season (eight meets).
Q: The team started off a bit rocky yesterday, but the last three rotations were strong. As a coaching staff, you all had to be pleased with the way the team rebounded.
A: That was obviously not our best rotation on uneven bars, and it's not the way you want to start a meet. However, I think it was important for our team to see that they weren't invincible and to also know that they could make a mistake and that they were good enough to rebound from that mistake. It was a good lesson to learn at this point in the season because you never know what's going to happen down the road.
Q: Talk about the last two team performances on floor. The team has looked really good there.
A: We knew coming into the season that we have a very strong floor team on paper. Obviously, that is showing that what we have on paper is also what we have on the floor. I'm pleased with their development. We did a lot of endurance work in the offseason, and I think you're starting to see the results of that, so that's been encouraging. What's great is that we're doing it with different kids. That'll be key for us down the stretch. If we have to sub someone into the lineup for whatever reason, we can do it with confidence knowing that those individuals will have had some experience.
Q: What about vault?
A: We've had a strong vault team in the past, and we felt we had one coming into this year. To get over that hump, you have to get sticks. That's something we're working very hard on. It's something that develops over the season. It's great if you have it early or in the middle, but we need to fire on all cylinders going into the home stretch. That's what is happening. At West Virginia, I thought that was our best rotation of the season, not just from a performance standpoint but also from the scoring.
Q: Something we've talked all year about is the depth, being able to sub in different people and give others breaks. Are you starting to see the benefits of that?
A: Yeah, I think so. It's been great to give some gymnasts a break. That also provides opportunities for other kids because again, you never know what's going to happen. Who knows? You give a kid an opportunity, and they may take a spot in the lineup. Best-case scenario, even if they don't get in, they have that experience for the future. We're getting some of that, especially for the freshmen.
Q: Scott made mention the other day about how teams this year are putting up season-best scores when they compete against Michigan. Is that a result of just being Michigan or is that a fluky thing?
A: I think it's common in all sports. Gymnastics is no different. Most good, competitive athletes step up to the level of their competition. We have a good team this year. They want to give us their best shot and quite honestly, we want them to, because that will help prepare us for the postseason when we are facing good teams all the way around. It's obviously good for them, and it's good for us.
LAST TIME OUT
Following a subpar start on uneven bars, Michigan rallied to score high in the next three rotations in a quad-meet victory at West Virginia last Sunday (Feb. 24) in Morgantown, W.Va. [ Recap ]
Sunday, March 10 -- at UCLA, vs. California, vs. Iowa State (Los Angeles, Calif.), 2 p.m. PST
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423