This Week in Michigan Women's Gymnastics #11

March 19, 2014

The All-Around | Coach Plocki on WTKA Insider

Saturday, March 22
-- at Big Ten Championships (State College, Pa.), Noon

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The No. 8-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten) looks to defy the odds and win its 21st Big Ten title as it begins the postseason at the 2014 Big Ten Championships, held on Saturday (March 22) inside Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University in State College, Pa. By virtue of last Saturday's third-place finish at the Big Ten Quad, Michigan will compete in the afternoon session (noon EDT) alongside Iowa, Michigan State and No. 24 Ohio State. The remaining four teams -- No. 9 Nebraska, No. 13 Illinois, No. 14 Penn State and No. 16 Minnesota -- will compete in the evening session (5 p.m.). The team with the highest overall score from either session will be crowned Big Ten champion.

Tickets for the Big Ten Championships are on sale through the Penn State Ticket Center. All-session tickets are $18 (adults) and $10 (youth -- under age 12). Single-session tickets are $10 (adults) and $6 (youth -- under age 12). To purchase, please call 1-800-NITTANY. Single-session tickets can also be purchased at the door.

Both sessions of the Big Ten Championships will be shown live on the Big Ten Network 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.

The following table shows what event each team will start on at the Big Ten Championships. The order was determined by a random draw before the season based on each team's finish at their respective Big Ten Quad. Michigan will have the Olympic order (vault-uneven bars-balance beam-floor exercise) in the afternoon session at the Big Ten Championships:

  Afternoon Session (Noon)  
VAULT 3rd Place - Michigan Quad MICHIGAN
UNEVEN BARS 4th Place - Michigan Quad Iowa
BALANCE BEAM 4th Place - MSU Quad Ohio State
FLOOR EXERCISE 3rd Place - MSU Quad Michigan State
  Evening Session (5 p.m.)  
VAULT 2nd Place - MSU Quad Illinois
UNEVEN BARS 1st Place - MSU Quad Nebraska
BALANCE BEAM 1st Place - Michigan Quad Minnesota
FLOOR EXERCISE 2nd Place - Michigan Quad Penn State

Despite being the top-ranked team in the conference (No. 8), Michigan will compete in the afternoon session by virtue of its third-place finish in its Big Ten Quad last Saturday (March 15). In the two years the Big Ten has gone to a two-session format for the Championships, no team from the afternoon session has won the team title (Nebraska has won both times out of the evening session). In those two years, the highest finish for any team out of the morning session was fourth -- Michigan in 2012 and Illinois in 2013. Prior to this season, the Big Ten had used RQS as a way to determine which teams would compete in the afternoon and evening sessions, with the four higher-ranked teams competing in the evening.

Michigan has won more Big Ten championships than any other program (19), including 18 wins at the official championships meet and one regular-season title (2013). Its last win at the Big Ten Championships meet was in 2011 in Minneapolis, Minn. Nebraska is the two-time defending Big Ten champion, having won titles in 2012 and 2013.

The Wolverines have won 78 Big Ten individual titles in their storied history. At least one U-M gymnast has won or tied for an individual event title in 23 consecutive Big Ten Championships meets dating back to 1991. Michigan has two former Big Ten champions on its roster: fifth-year senior Natalie Beilstein (vault in 2010) and junior Sachi Sugiyama (vault in 2012). Ten gymnasts have been named Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, including senior Joanna Sampson in 2013, while nine have been named Big Ten Freshman of the Year (last: Tatjana Thuener-Rego in 2006). Additionally, head coach Bev Plocki is a 10-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (includes shares). The conference will announce its Big Ten Gymnast, Freshman and Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the championships on Saturday.

Penn State is hosting the Big Ten Championships for the fourth time (1994, 2000, 2007, 2014). U-M has had good success competing at Penn State in the postseason, winning the Big Ten title in those three previous occasions and advancing to the NCAA Championships in the three times it has competed there for NCAA Regionals (first in 2000, second in 2002 and 2004). The Wolverines posted 197.850 at the 2000 Big Ten Championships, which remains a program record for highest postseason score. Michigan's last trip to Penn State came on March 2, 2012, as it finished second to Penn State in a tri-meet that also included North Carolina (195.900).

The Wolverines remain at No. 8 in this week's GymInfo/Troester rankings (196.900 RQS). The RQS ranks teams and seeds them for NCAA Regionals, set 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 (49.415), seventh on both vault (49.350) and uneven bars (49.305) and tied for 15th on balance beam (49.035). Three individuals continue to be ranked, led by senior Joanna Sampson. She is fifth in the all-around (39.520), tied for ninth on floor exercise (9.935), tied for 18th on uneven bars (9.890) and tied for 21st on vault (9.900). Sophomore Austin Sheppard is tied for seventh on vault (9.930) and freshman Nicole Artz is tied for 21st on floor exercise (9.895). [ Rankings: Team | Individuals ]

RQS 197.790, Florida 196.900 (8)
Vault 49.545, LSU 49.350 (7)
Uneven Bars 49.525, Georgia 49.305 (7)
Balance Beam 49.440, Florida 49.035 (T-15)
Floor Exercise 49.525, Utah 49.415 (5)
All-Around 39.715, Bridget Sloan, Florida 39.520, Joanna Sampson (5)
Vault Four tied at 9.945 9.930, Austin Sheppard (T-7)
9.900, Joanna Sampson (T-21)
Uneven Bars 9.940, Georgia Dabritz, Utah
9.940, Chelsea Davis, Georgia
9.890, Joanna Sampson (T-18)
Balance Beam 9.950, Bridget Sloan, Florida --
Floor Exercise 9.970, Haley Scaman, Oklahoma
9.970, Kytra Hunter, Florida
9.935, Joanna Sampson (T-9)
9.895, Nicole Artz (T-21)


• Five gymnasts received All-Big Ten distinction on Tuesday (March 18). Natalie Beilstein, Joanna Sampson and Austin Sheppard were all named to the first team, while Nicole Artz and Shelby Gies were picked to the second team. With Artz and Sheppard, U-M has now had 57 gymnasts combine to receive 127 All-Big Ten honors -- 100 selections on the first team and 27 on the second team. The Big Ten began awarding second-team honorees in 2003. [ Release ]

• Freshman Nicole Artz was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday (March 17) for the fourth time this season. She tied for second and scored 9.900 on all three of her events (uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise) in the Big Ten Quad last Saturday. [ Release ]

• The Wolverines had its 10-meet home winning streak snapped in the Big Ten Quad last Saturday (March 15). Prior to that date, U-M hadn't lost a home meet since 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 was Feb. 17, 2012, to Utah. At the Big Ten Quad, U-M scored 196.025, its lowest score of the season. It was also the first time all year that it was forced to count a fall on any event.

• U-M scored 49.475 on uneven bars at the Big Ten Quad, tying a season best. All six gymnasts in the rotation scored at 9.850 or higher, including 9.900 routines from Nicole Artz and Shelby Gies and a 9.950 routine from Joanna Sampson. It also scored 49.475 on Jan. 31 vs. Michigan State.

• In its 10 regular-season competitions, U-M is averaged 196.715, which currently stands as the second-highest team average 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 49.303 on vault and 49.315 on floor exercise, which would be the second and third-highest averages, respectively, in a single season in program history if the season ended today. Individually, Joanna Sampson is averaging 39.483 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).

• Senior Joanna Sampson has scored 39.000 or higher in 29 career meets, the ninth-best mark in program history. She needs to accomplish the feat one more time 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 or tied for 18 all-around titles and 49 individual event titles. This season, 29 of her 39 routines have been scored at 9.850 or better, including 18 at 9.900 or above.

• Nearly half of Michigan's routines this year -- 110 of 240 (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 10 meets, Michigan has scored above 49.000 in 32 of 40 rotations, while U-M gymnasts have won 31 of 40 individual event titles.

• The Wolverines will make their 23rd consecutive NCAA Regionals appearance on Saturday, April 5. The official announcement will be made next Monday afternoon (March 24). The Wolverines will likely be the second seed at one of six sites: LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Penn State, Minnesota and Washington. U-M can be no lower than ninth in the final RQS and can increase its RQS as long as it scores higher than 196.525 on Saturday at the Big Ten Championships. Nebraska is one spot behind Michigan in the RQS at No. 9 and can increase its own RQS as long as it scores higher than 196.650 on Saturday.


Bev Plocki
Head Coach

Q: We talked last week about how much confidence the team had coming off of that performance against Utah and UCLA. After last Saturday's disappointing finish, how do you build that back up for Big Tens this week?
A: We're still the No. 1-ranked team in the Big Ten Conference. We need to have that faith and that attitude on Saturday and put our trust in the judging panel. When we are done competing, we need there to be no doubt that we were the best team on that floor at the end of the day. We need to perform to the best of our abilities and not leave any room for second-guessing. That's all we can do.

Q: You can find a teaching moment or lesson in every meet no matter if it is in the regular season or the postseason. What's the biggest thing that you can take away from that meet?
A: I think they competed not to lose instead of competing to win. The thing that was most disappointing to me is that we train all the time on how to overcome a mistake, about how to pick ourselves up after a mistake and not allow more things to happen. When we had a fall on beam, we collapsed and allowed there to be two falls instead of regrouping and finishing strong. That's something we talk about all the time. That made a huge difference in the meet.

Q: Looking ahead, the Big Ten Championships are this Saturday. We've talked the last couple of weeks about the level of excitement ramping up as the postseason gets closer. Now, you may not be in the session you want or even expected to be in, but do you get the sense that the team is anxious to get back out there and redeem themselves?
A: Absolutely. To say that they're very disappointed and somewhat embarrassed, I think both are true statements. We have to get a little angry right now. We have to take that mentality into our competition and into our practices because we have something to prove.

Q: With five teams in the top 16 of the rankings, is the Big Ten Conference stronger now than it has ever been?
A: No question. The last four or five years, the Big Ten has grown stronger and stronger every single year.

Q: Lastly, you've coached 24 groups of seniors in your coaching career here at Michigan. This is the 25th. As they enter the last month or so of their college careers, the finality of it all probably is staring to hit them. What do you want to see out of them down the stretch as we enter the postseason?
A: I want to see them compete with a sense of urgency. They have nothing to hold back, nothing to save themselves for. They need to put it all out there so that when they're done, they can look back and say they gave it every ounce of everything they had.

U-M finished third at the Big Ten Quad last Saturday (March 15) at Crisler Center, scoring 196.025. No. 13 Minnesota won (196.700) and No. 15 Penn State took second (196.475). [ Recap ]

Saturday, April 5
-- at NCAA Regionals (Site TBD)

The All-Around (Tuesday)

Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423

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