This Week in Michigan Women's Gymnastics #10
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MGOBLUE

March 5, 2013

• Audio: The All-Around Podcast audio | Bev Plocki on WKTA Insider audio

THIS WEEK
Sunday, March 10
-- at No. 6 UCLA, vs. California, vs. Iowa State (Los Angeles, Calif.), 2 p.m. PST [ Live Results | Live Video ]

Social Media: Facebook | Twitter
Facility:
Crisler Center | Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastics Training Center

The No. 3-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (13-1) wraps up its three-week road trip with a quad meet against No. 6 UCLA (7-3), California (6-6) and Iowa State (4-6) on Sunday (March 10) in Los Angeles, Calif. The meet will begin at 2 p.m. PST inside Pauley Pavilion.

RANKINGS

Michigan remains at No. 3 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (197.080) for the sixth 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). Florida retakes the No. 1 spot (197.440), while Oklahoma, last week's No. 1, slips to No. 2 (197.410). [ Rankings ]

The Wolverines rank among the top 10 nationally and lead the Big Ten in all four events. They are second on floor exercise (49.400), fourth on uneven bars (49.300), fifth on balance beam (49.185) and seventh on vault (49.315). Two student-athletes are ranked in the all-around. Junior Joanna Sampson is second (39.500) and senior Katie Zurales is 11th (39.365).

Four of the top 10 all-arounders in the nation are from the Big Ten. Sampson is second, Sharaya Musser (Penn State) is fifth (39.450), Emily Wong (Nebraska) is eighth (39.430) and Alina Weinstein (Illinois) is ninth (39.405).

NCAA LEADER MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)
Team Average 197.440, Florida 197.080 (3)
Vault 49.455, Florida 49.315 (7)
Uneven Bars 49.450, Florida 49.300 (4)
Balance Beam 49.395, Oklahoma 49.185 (5)
Floor Exercise 49.410, LSU 49.400 (2)
NCAA LEADER MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)
All-Around 39.590, Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA 39.500, Joanna Sampson (2)
39.365, Katie Zurales (11)
Vault 9.955, Tory Wilson, Utah ---
Uneven Bars 9.935, Chelsea Davis, Georgia 9.890, Joanna Sampson (T-9)
9.860, Sachi Sugiyama (T-21)
9.860, Katie Zurales (T-21)
Balance Beam 9.930, Taylor Spears, Oklahoma 9.880, Katie Zurales (T-11)
Floor Exercise 9.940, Joanna Sampson, MICHIGAN ---

The rankings are determined by 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 Saturday (March 2) at Michigan State, Michigan raised its RQS from 196.975 to 197.080. Its score from Michigan State is now calculated in its RQS, while the team's 196.775 score from Jan. 26 at Minnesota is removed.

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. 197.300 - March 2 at Michigan State
4. 196.925 - Feb. 8 at Ohio State (A)
5. 196.925 - Feb. 24 at West Virginia, New Hampshire, Towson (A)
6. 196.900 - Jan. 12 vs. Nebraska (H)

WOLVERINE BITES

• Michigan holds all-time records of 9-25 against UCLA (5-8 in regular-season meets), 13-0 against Iowa State and 1-2 against California. The last meeting between Michigan and UCLA came at the 2011 NCAA Super Six, with UCLA finishing higher, 197.375-196.425. The last regular-season meeting between the two schools came Feb. 4, 2005 (Michigan won 196.250-195.250). The Wolverines have faced California just three prior times in their history, most recently on Feb. 29, 2008 (Michigan won 196.200-191.000). This will be the second of three meetings between Michigan and Iowa State. The Wolverines won the first meeting, 196.775-193.950, at the Minnesota quad meet back on Jan. 26, and the teams will face each other next Saturday (March 16) in Ann Arbor.

• This is Michigan's first visit to Los Angeles since the 2004 NCAA Championships. Pauley Pavilion is also the site of the 2013 NCAA Championships, to be held April 19-21.

• Sunday's quad meet will feature the nation's top two all-arounders (by RQS). Joanna Sampson ranks second (39.500), less than a tenth-of-a-point behind UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa, who leads the nation with a 39.590 RQS.

• With its win over Michigan State last Saturday (March 2), Michigan clinched at least a share of the inaugural Big Ten regular-season championship. By virtue of finishing 6-1 in conference dual meets, the Wolverines have assured themselves at least a share of the championship. Minnesota and Nebraska are each 4-1 and have two meets left, so should one or both teams get to 6-1, there would be a share, as the conference does not break ties for regular-season crowns. The winner of the Big Ten Championships meet on March 23 in East Lansing will still be called Big Ten champions.

• Michigan's score of 197.300 at Michigan is its third score of 197.000 or higher this season (first on the road). The last time it had three scores of 197.000 or better in the same season was 2004. Last Saturday's score against Michigan State is the program's highest regular-season road score since 2003 (197.025 at Denver).

• The win over Michigan State is also career win No. 600 for head coach Bev Plocki. She is 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). Plocki has accounted for 83 percent of the program's total victories (600 of 815).

• Juniors Joanna Sampson and Shelby Gies each received weekly honors from the Big Ten on Monday (March 4). Sampson was named Women's Gymnast of the Week, while Gies was named Event Specialist of the Week. It is Gies' first career weekly honor of any kind. [ Release ]

Joanna Sampson recorded the sixth-highest all-around score in program history at Michigan State (39.650), tying Sarah Cain (three times) and Elise Ray (two times). She is the first U-M gymnast since Ray to record three scores of 39.600 or better in the all-around in the same season. Sampson has scored 9.800 or above in 34 of her 35 routines this season. Additionally, she has won the floor exercise title in five straight meets (seven overall, including ties) and has finished either first or second on uneven bars in eight of the team's nine meets.

Shelby Gies is the third U-M gymnast this year to receive Big Ten Event Specialist of the Week honors, joining Reema Zakharia (Jan. 21) and Brittnee Martinez (Feb. 17). Gies won balance beam (9.925) and tied for first on uneven bars (9.900) vs. Michigan State, both new career highs.

• Michigan is scoring better on all four events compared to last year, including significant changes on balance beam (+.621) and floor exercise (+.617). It is also scoring better on uneven bars (+.361) and vault (+.142). The Wolverines have improved their scoring from a 195.236 average in 2012 to a 196.978 average in 2013, a difference of 1.742 points.

• Upperclassmen (sophomores, juniors, seniors) have accounted for 88 percent (191 of 216) of the team's lineup spots in its eight meets this season. Only 11 percent (25 of 216) of the team's lineup spots have been occupied by freshmen. Of the freshmen, Briley Casanova has been in the balance beam and floor exercise lineup in three straight meets, while Austin Sheppard has been in the vault lineup in six straight meets.

• Michigan has scored above 49.000 in 34 of 36 rotations this season (nine meets).

COACHES' CORNER

Bev Plocki

Q: First off, talk about your thoughts coming out of the Michigan State meet. You have to be pleased with the number of positives.
A: I am. I'm extremely happy that we are coming down the final stretch of the season and we're still improving. I feel like we haven't peaked. It's the most excited I've been heading into a postseason in a number of years. The confidence this team has shown is very strong and that's what we need going into the end of the year. We need every single one of these student-athletes thinking that they can win a national championship and I think right now, they think they can compete for one.

Q: Considering there is still two meets left in the regular season, how do you guard against looking ahead?
A: We have done a really good job of taking this season one meet at a time. I think right now, this team has completely bought into what our strategy as a coaching staff, especially when it comes to rest. Sometimes, it's as much emotional rest as it is physical. The fact that the kids feel like they have an opportunity to rest and be rejuvenated going into the end as opposed to going down the stretch wondering, 'How many meets do I have left?' or 'Am I going to make it?' All these guys feel like they are still ready to go and capable of improving.

Q: Now that we are in the third month of the season, are you starting to see the work from the summer and fall pay off?
A: Absolutely. Our athletes put a lot of focus and hard work through the end of the summer and the fall. It made life a lot easier all the way around. We have depth this year, so it created a healthy competitive atmosphere in the gym every day, which was great. Last year, if you could do a routine, you were in the lineup. There was no competition at all. If you were tired and sore, nobody was there to replace you. This year, we don't have any of that. They were very willing to rest in order to do the things we need for them to do. In the back of their mind, some of they didn't necessarily want to rest knowing that they may not get that lineup spot back if the person they were replaced with did well. That's been a very healthy thing for us.

Q: Talk about this weekend's meet at UCLA.
A: Going into this weekend, we know that UCLA has been one of the four teams that has won a national championship. It would mean a great deal for us to go into their home venue and come away with a victory. We're all excited about that opportunity. As coaches, we have a difficult decision to make in terms of what our lineups are. We want to go into this competition with what we feel like would be our strongest lineup, so that's exciting. We want to see what our capabilities are if we have what we feel like are our top six on each event with confidence and momentum in our direction. Our kids definitely rise to the challenge and in competing against a team like UCLA, that's no exception. They are a fantastic team, a national championship-caliber team. It ought to be a tremendous competition.

Q: There are 14 gymnasts on the team yet only six get into lineups. Talk about the roles that the other gymnasts play in preparing the team for success?
A: We've had some conversations with each of the athletes individually where we discussed what their roles are going to be on this team as we go into championships season. Yes, while there is some healthy competition going on, we also want to have a very real picture of what we view their roles as so they can accept them. If they are one of our top six on any particular event, we want them to know that so they aren't distracted. If you're an alternate, your role is a critical one. You need to make sure you are ready physically and mentally should something go wrong. You need to be ready. Everyone clearly knows what their roles are. That creates a situation where everyone can relax, do what they do, play their role and be supportive for other people. It brings us together at an even greater level.

Q: Lastly, we've talked about it seemingly all year, but the depth that this team has. You said recently that teams don't win titles because of one or two, but rather by the performances of the seventh, eighth, ninth and so-on gymnasts.
A: It's been very important. I have gone on record a thousand times saying that championship-caliber teams don't get to where they are because of two all-arounders. It's exciting to see that we can point to almost everyone in a lineup at any given time and know when they stepped up. For us to peak at the championships part of the season, we not only need to be led by the all-arounders, but by our two-event, three-event and individuals. Those people have the potential to contribute almost at the same level as Katie or Joanna but just in fewer events.

LAST TIME OUT
The Wolverines beat Michigan State for the 16th straight time, clinching a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship in a 197.300-194.850 victory last Saturday (March 2) in East Lansing, Mich. [ Recap ]

UP NEXT
Saturday, March 16
-- vs. Iowa State (Crisler Center), 4 p.m. (TV: Big Ten Network)

OTHER RELATED LINKS
Joanna Sampson Feature -- The Detroit News
The All-Around (Tuesday) -- Stephanie Colbert and Austin Sheppard
Bev Plocki on WTKA 1050 AM (Friday at 8:05 a.m.)

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423