This Week in Michigan Women's Gymnastics #10
MGOBLUE  
MGOBLUE
 
MGOBLUE

March 11, 2014

The All-Around audio | Coach Plocki on WTKA Insider
Freshman Duo Makes Immediate Impact

THIS WEEK
Saturday, March 15
-- vs. No. 13 Minnesota, No. 15 Penn State, Iowa (Crisler Center), 1:30 p.m.

Follow the Meet: Tickets | TV: Big Ten Network (live) | Live Results | Twitter Updates
Social Media: Facebook | Twitter

With the Big Ten regular-season championship and postseason positioning on the line, the No. 8-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (14-2, 4-0 Big Ten) looks to build off last week's record-setting performance as it hosts No. 13 Minnesota (16-2, 3-1 Big Ten), No. 15 Penn State (18-2, 3-1 Big Ten) and Iowa (1-9, 0-4 Big Ten) in the Big Ten Quad on Saturday (March 15) inside Crisler Center. The meet will begin at 1:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, call (866) 296-MTIX or go to www.MGoBlue.com/tickets.

The Big Ten Quad will be shown live on Big Ten Network. It can also be seen online at www.btn2go.com and on mobile devices with the BTN2Go app. Lisa Byington (play-by-play) and former U.S. Olympian Shawn Johnson (analyst) will be on the call.

WHAT'S ON THE LINE
Should Michigan win Saturday's quad meet, it would win the Big Ten regular-season championship outright with a conference record of 7-0. If U-M finishes second, it would receive a share of the title. The Big Ten is awarding a regular-season champion for the second straight year, as U-M and Minnesota shared the title last season.

Second, the first- and second-place teams at each Big Ten Quad will advance to the evening session (5 p.m.) of the Big Ten Championships, to be held Saturday, March 22, at Penn State. The other quad will run simultaneously in East Lansing, Mich., and feature Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan State. The third- and fourth-place teams at each quad will compete in the morning session (noon).

RANKINGS
The Wolverines are at No. 8 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.900 RQS). The rankings switched from season scoring average to Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) on Monday (Feb. 24). The RQS ranks teams and seeds them for NCAA Regionals, to be held April 5 at six different sites (Minnesota, Georgia, Washington, LSU, Arkansas, Penn State). 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 top 18 teams in the nation based on RQS will receive a seed at Regionals.

The Wolverines' RQS can be calculated based on the following meets:

1. 197.825 -- March 7 vs. UCLA/Utah (H)
2. 197.325 -- Jan. 25 vs. Ohio State (H)
3. 197.200 -- Feb. 28 vs. Kent State/BYU (H)
4. 196.800 -- Jan. 17 at North Carolina State (A)
5. 196.650 -- Feb. 14 at Nebraska (A)
6. 196.525 -- Jan. 10 at Iowa State (A)

In the four events, Michigan is fifth on floor exercise (49.515), sixth on vault (49.350), eighth on uneven bars (49.265) and tied for 13th on balance beam (49.035). Three individuals continue to be ranked, led by senior Joanna Sampson, who is tied for sixth in the all-around (39.495), tied for eighth on floor exercise (9.935) and tied for 20th on vault (9.900). The others are sophomore Austin Sheppard (tied for fifth on vault - 9.930) and freshman Nicole Artz (tied for 18th on floor exercise - 9.895). [ Rankings: Team | Individuals ]

  NCAA LEADER MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)
RQS 197.660, LSU 196.900 (8)
Vault 49.545, LSU 49.350 (6)
Uneven Bars 49.525, Georgia 49.265 (8)
Balance Beam 49.415, Oklahoma 49.035 (T-13)
Floor Exercise 49.500, Oklahoma 49.415 (5)
  NCAA LEADER MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)
All-Around 39.665, Bridget Sloan, Florida 39.495, Joanna Sampson (T-6)
Vault 9.940, Tory Wilson, Utah 9.930, Austin Sheppard (T-5)
9.900, Joanna Sampson (T-20)
Uneven Bars 9.940, Georgia Dabritz, Utah --
Balance Beam 9.925, Mackenzie Caquatto, Florida --
Floor Exercise 9.965, Georgia Dabritz, Utah
9.965, Haley Scaman, Oklahoma
9.935, Joanna Sampson (T-8)
9.895, Nicole Artz (T-18)

OPPONENT PREVIEW
Minnesota
The Golden Gophers are 16-2 on the season (3-1 in Big Ten) and are currently ranked No. 13 in the nation (196.305 RQS). Their RQS is nearly two tenths-of-a-point higher than their season scoring average (196.107). Minnesota scored 197.250 in a home victory over Iowa State on March 1. Its next-best score was 196.525 at Iowa State on Feb. 21. The Golden Gophers are led by sophomore Lindsay Mable, last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year. This year, Mable is 39.230 in the all-around, including 9.920 on floor exercise. As a team, floor exercise is Minnesota's best event, averaging 49.302 this season.

Series: U-M is 40-20 all-time against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers have won two of the last three meetings, including the 2012 Big Ten Championships (195.950-195.875) and the regular-season meeting in 2013 (196.800-196.775 in Minneapolis). The Wolverines did win the last meeting, however, finishing higher at the 2013 Big Ten Championships (197.225-196.775). It will be Minnesota's first visit to Ann Arbor since the 2011 NCAA Regional Championship.

Penn State
The Nittany Lions are 18-2 on the season (3-1 in Big Ten) and are currently ranked No. 15 in the nation (196.280 RQS). Their RQS (196.280) is more than five tenths-of-a-point higher than their season scoring average (195.735). Penn State is coming off its third-highest score in program history -- 197.200 last Saturday (March 8) in a quad meet win at New Hampshire. The Nittany Lions have relied on three all-arounders in recent weeks: Sidney Sanabria-Robles (39.043), Kassidy Stauder (39.300) and Krystal Welsh (39.002). They also potentially have a fourth in LSU transfer Randi Lau, who competed on three events at New Hampshire but was in as an all-arounder in the previous eight meets.

Series: U-M is 39-8 all-time against Penn State. The Wolverines have won three straight meetings in the series, including the regular-season match-up last season inside Cliff Keen Arena (197.375-196.700) and at the 2013 Big Ten Championships (197.225-195.825).

Iowa
The Hawkeyes are 1-9 (0-4 in Big Ten) in the season and currently last in the Big Ten in scoring average (193.558). This Saturday's meet will be the third road meet for Iowa and first this season with multiple teams. The Hawkeyes scored 192.775 in a loss to Iowa State last Friday (March 7). They had scored above 195.000 in the previous three meets before that. Iowa has four all-arounders: Mollie Drenth (38.438), Alie Glover (38.815), Sydney Hoerr (38.325) and Angel Metcalf (38.818).

Series: U-M is 44-7 all-time against Iowa. The Wolverines have won 33 of the last 35 meetings between the two schools dating back to 1992. The Hawkeyes' last win in the series came on Jan. 22, 2011, winning 195.375-194.900.

NOTES
• Last Friday (March 7), senior Joanna Sampson was announced as one of the six national finalists for the 2014 AAI Award. The award is given to the top senior women's gymnast in the country and is considered to be the sport's highest honor. [ Release ]

• For the second consecutive week and for the fourth time this season, sophomore Austin Sheppard was named Big Ten Event Specialist of the Week on Monday (March 10). She receives the award after winning vault against Utah/UCLA last Friday (March 7), scoring 9.975. She has scored 9.975 on vault three times this season. The last U-M gymnast to record a 10.0 score on any event was Kylee Botterman in 2011 (on vault). [ Release ]

• The Wolverines altered the record books with its performance in their tri-meet victory over No. 6 Utah and No. 8 UCLA last Friday (March 7). First, the team score of 197.825 was the second-highest score in program history. Second, it was also the highest regular-season score in program history and highest home score in program history. Last, the Wolverines set a new program record on floor exercise, scoring 49.650. It is the team's best performance of the season, as 21 of their 24 routines were scored at 9.850 or higher.

• Despite a fall in the first spot on balance beam, Michigan still managed to score 49.275 against Utah and UCLA, its highest score of the season on that apparatus. The previous high was 49.250, set on Jan. 25 vs. Ohio State. Additionally, three gymnasts set or tied career-high scores during the rotation: Briley Casanova (9.950), Talia Chiarelli (9.875 - tie) and Shelby Gies (9.925 - tie). U-M also recorded season highs on vault (49.475) and floor exercise (49.650) in that meet.

• Through nine meets, U-M is averaging 196.792, which is the second-highest team average in program history since 1998. The program record for highest scoring average in a single season is 196.998, set last season. This year, Michigan is also averaging 49.317 on both vault and floor exercise, which would be the highest and second-highest averages, respectively, in a single season in program history if the season ended today. Individually, Joanna Sampson is averaging 39.469 in the all-around this season, which would also be a program record for highest all-around average in a single season. That record is currently held by Elise Ray in 2004 (39.458).

• The Wolverines are averaging 197.287 in four home meets this season, compared to 196.396 in five road meets. They have won or finished first in 10 consecutive regular-season meets held inside Crisler Center. Michigan's last home loss came on March 9, 2012, vs. Georgia, in a meet that was held at the EMU Convocation Center (due to renovations at Crisler Center). The team's last loss at Crisler Center came on Feb. 17, 2012, vs. Utah.

• Senior Joanna Sampson has scored 39.000 or higher in 28 career meets, the ninth-best mark in program history. She needs to accomplish the feat two more times to tie Calli Ryals (2001-04) for eighth on the list. Sarah Curtis (2007-11) and Elise Ray (2001-05) are the program leaders with 40. For her career, Sampson has won 17 all-around titles and 47 individual event titles. This season, 26 of her 35 routines have been scored at 9.850 or better, including 15 at 9.900 or above.

• Nearly half of Michigan's routines this year -- 99 of 216 (46 percent) -- have come from its senior class (Joanna Sampson, Natalie Beilstein, Shelby Gies, Reema Zakharia). Together, this senior class has won two Big Ten titles (2011, 2013 - regular season), qualified for two NCAA Championships and reached one NCAA Super Six (2011).

• Through nine meets, Michigan has scored above 49.000 in 29 of 36 rotations, while U-M gymnasts have won 28 of 36 individual event titles.

• Michigan will face two more ranked opponents on Saturday. It currently has a record of 6-2 against ranked foes this season, with wins over No. 23 Ohio State (Jan. 25), No. 14 Illinois (Feb. 7), No. 7 Nebraska (Feb. 14), No. 23 Kent State (Feb. 28), No. 6 Utah (March 7) and No. 8 UCLA (March 7). The Wolverines' two losses are to No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 5 Alabama (both on Feb. 21).

COACHES' CORNER

Bev Plocki
Head Coach

Q: Last week, you mentioned that this time of the season is when the fun really begins. In that performance from last Friday, it certainly seemed like the team was having a lot of fun, posting the second-highest score in program history and beating two top-10 teams in the process.
A: I absolutely think they were having fun. The more you have fun, the less you feel like its work and the more successful you'll be. I think that we have really started to embrace the bigger meets and tougher competition and believe more in ourselves and what we're capable of. The success we had last Friday should go a long way in helping catapult us into the postseason. We just want to make sure we take it one meet at a time like we've done all year.

Q: Confidence has to be soaring after these last two weeks at home, especially considering how difficult the previous three were before that. Might have mentioned it a few weeks back, but it clearly is having a positive effect on the performances on the floor.
A: We keep talking as a team about the excitement and energy of the postseason and what we're capable of doing. That, by itself, is motivation enough. They can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They can see how many meets are left on the schedule. And for these seniors especially, they know it's all they have left. I can guarantee you that they're going to put every ounce of everything they have into those competitions.

Q: There has been steady improvement every week, peaking with that 197.825 score from Friday. Is this the kind of team you expected to see at the beginning of the season?
A: Absolutely. Our consistency has been very good all season long. We've only made a couple big mistakes in competition, but we haven't had to count any of them. We just want to continue refining the details so we're hitting on all cylinders heading into the postseason when we have to go against the top teams in the country.

Q: The postseason unofficially starts this week with the Big Ten Quad, but there is a regular-season championship on the line in addition to two spots in the night session at the Big Ten Championships next week. You said last week that you focus on the same things every week in practice in terms of skills, but what about the mental side? Anything different this week now that the postseason is nearly here?
A: I don't know if it is preparation. The athletes need to see that the coaches are also excited about this and that we believe in what this team's potential is heading into the postseason. We talk about these meets as opportunities. A positive attitude is infectious and that's going to be a major advantage to us in the postseason. We need to bring it every day just like we're asking them to.

Q: You also get four days of practice this week, which is something that you haven't had much -- if at all -- this season with the majority of the meets taking place on Fridays. How big is that extra day and how do you plan to utilize it?
A: Ironically enough, you'd think the extra day of practice would be a good thing and had we been doing it all year long, it certainly would be. But we're at a point in the season where people are tired and sore and bodies are aching. We have to guard against doing too much on that extra day to the point where we're putting people over the top physically. We need to spread out the work we're doing and not necessarily look at it as an opportunity to do more. The hope is that by spreading out what we're doing, things will be a little easier on their bodies.

LAST TIME OUT
U-M posted the second-highest score in program history (197.825) in a tri-meet win over No. 6 Utah and No. 8 UCLA last Friday (March 7) inside Crisler Center. [ Recap ]

UP NEXT
Saturday, March 22
-- at Big Ten Championships (State College, Pa.), Noon or 5 p.m. [ TV: Big Ten Network ]

OTHER RELATED LINKS
The All-Around (Tuesday)

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423