April 1, 2014
With two spots at the NCAA Championships on the line, the No. 7-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (22-4) heads south to take part in the NCAA Athens Regional Championship, schedule for Saturday (April 5) in Athens, Ga. The competition will begin at 4 p.m. inside Stegeman Coliseum.
Joining Michigan in the six-team meet will be host Georgia, Central Michigan, Ohio State, North Carolina State and Rutgers. The top two teams at the end of the Regional will advance to the NCAA Championships, to be held April 18-20 in Birmingham, Ala.
Tickets for the Athens Regional can be purchased through the UGA Ticket Office. To purchase, go to www.georgiadogs.com/tickets or call (877) 542-1231. The ticket office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $9 for youths. [ Buy Tickets ]
NCAA REGIONALS HISTORY
U-M is making its 23rd consecutive appearance at NCAA Regionals (24th overall). Since that stretch began in 1992, the Wolverines have qualified to the NCAA Championships a total of 19 times (not in 1992, 2009 or 2012).
Michigan has won a total of 10 NCAA Regional championships: 1982 (Champaign, Ill.), 1997 (Ann Arbor), 1999 (Lincoln, Neb.), 2001 (Ann Arbor), 2003 (Ann Arbor), 2005 (Lincoln), 2006 (Ann Arbor), 2011 (Ann Arbor), 2013 (Morgantown, W.Va.). U-M has made seven NCAA Regionals appearances at schools from the Southeastern Conference, though Saturday will be the first time at Georgia.
U-M gymnasts have won or tied for 56 individual NCAA Regional titles: 19 on uneven bars, 11 each in the all-around, on vault and on floor exercise and four on balance beam. There are two former NCAA Regional champions on the roster: Joanna Sampson (uneven bars in 2013, vault in 2011-12) and Natalie Beilstein (floor exercise in 2010).
NCAA Regional awards for Gymnast of the Year, Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year will be announced on Saturday. Last season, Joanna Sampson was named NCAA Northeast Region Gymnast of the Year, and Bev Plocki was named NCAA Northeast Region Coach of the Year (for the sixth time).
Michigan is the No. 2 seed at the Athens Regional and will be joined by No. 1-seed Georgia (No. 6 in the country), No. 3-seed Central Michigan (No. 18 in the country), No. 22 Ohio State, North Carolina State and Rutgers.
The Wolverines have faced three of those teams already this season. They hosted Central Michigan in an exhibition meet on Dec. 8 (W, 196.550-193.100) and defeated both North Carolina State and Ohio State during the month of January. This will be Michigan's first matchup with Georgia since the 2012 NCAA Auburn Regional. Additionally, the Wolverines have not faced Rutgers since the 2007 NCAA Regional in Ann Arbor. The Scarlet Knights (along with Maryland) will join the Big Ten Conference as full members in July.
Here are the season averages (not RQS averages) for each team at the NCAA Athens Regional:
|North Carolina State||49.019||48.410||48.813||48.844||195.087|
Here is the rotation order for the NCAA Athens Regional. Michigan will start on a bye before floor exercise and end on balance beam. Individual qualifier Haley Watts (North Carolina) will rotate with Michigan:
|1||CMU||Georgia||NC State||Rutgers||MICHIGAN||Ohio State|
|2||Ohio State||CMU||Georgia||NC State||Rutgers||MICHIGAN|
|3||MICHIGAN||Ohio State||CMU||Georgia||NC State||Rutgers|
|4||Rutgers||MICHIGAN||Ohio State||CMU||Georgia||NC State|
|5||NC State||Rutgers||MICHIGAN||Ohio State||CMU||Georgia|
|6||Georgia||NC State||Rutgers||MICHIGAN||Ohio State||CMU|
Michigan will have a practice session with Central Michigan and North Carolina State on Friday (April 4) at 1:15 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Wolverines came in at No. 7 in the final edition of the GymInfo/Troester rankings (197.105 RQS). The rankings are calculated by regional qualifying score (RQS). 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 Wolverines' RQS can be calculated based on the following meets:
1. 197.825 -- March 7 vs. UCLA/Utah (H)
2. 197.550 -- March 22 at Big Ten Championships (A)
3. 197.325 -- Jan. 25 vs. Ohio State (H)
4. 197.200 -- Feb. 28 vs. Kent State/BYU (H)
5. 196.800 -- Jan. 17 at North Carolina State (A)
6. 196.650 -- Feb. 14 at Nebraska (A)
In the four events, Michigan is tied for fourth on floor exercise (49.490), seventh on vault (49.365) and eighth on uneven bars (49.375) and tied for 17th on balance beam (49.075). Individually, Joanna Sampson is tied for fifth in the all-around (39.565) and is also ranked on three events: tied for eighth on floor exercise (9.940), tied for 13th on uneven bars (9.915) and tied for 25th on vault (9.900). Austin Sheppard is tied for second on vault (9.945), while Nicole Artz (9.905) and Natalie Beilstein (9.900) are tied for 19th and 23rd on floor exercise, respectively. [ Rankings: Team | Individuals ]
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|RQS||197.895, Florida||197.105 (7)|
|Vault||49.550, LSU||49.365 (7)|
|Uneven Bars||49.580, Georgia||49.375 (8)|
|Balance Beam||49.445, Florida/Oklahoma||49.075 (T-17)|
|Floor Exercise||49.565, Utah||49.490 (T-4)|
|NCAA LEADER||MICHIGAN (NATIONAL RANK)|
|All-Around||39.720, Bridget Sloan, Florida||39.565, Joanna Sampson (T-5)|
|Vault||9.950, Bridget Sloan, Florida||9.945, Austin Sheppard (T-2)
9.900, Joanna Sampson (T-25)
|Uneven Bars||9.950, Georgia Dabritz, Utah||9.915, Joanna Sampson (T-13)|
|Balance Beam||9.950, Bridget Sloan, Florida||--|
|Floor Exercise||9.975, Kytra Hunter, Florida||9.940, Joanna Sampson (T-8)
9.905, Nicole Artz (T-19)
9.900, Natalie Beilstein (T-23)
BIG TEN CHAMPIONS!
Michigan captured its 20th Big Ten championship on March 22, scoring 197.550 from the first session to win the title at Penn State. Factoring in U-M's share of the 2013 Big Ten regular-season title, U-M has won a total of 21 total conference championships. [ Recap | Notes | Quotes | Photo Gallery | Highlights | Sampson's 10.0 ]
Senior Joanna Sampson won a pair of conference titles, finishing first on uneven bars (9.925) and tying for first on floor exercise (10.000). U-M gymnasts have now won a total of 80 Big Ten individual titles, winning at least one championship in 24 consecutive Big Ten Championships meets.
Joanna Sampson became the first gymnast in conference history to score a 10.0 on floor exercise at the Big Ten Championships. The last U-M gymnast to record a 10.0 on any event was Kylee Botterman in 2011 (vault). The last U-M gymnast to record a 10.0 on floor exercise was Calli Ryals in 2002. It was the first 10.0 score of Sampson's career, the first 10.0 scored on floor exercise in the postseason and the 66th 10.0 score in program history.
Nicole Artz was named 2014 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. She is the first U-M gymnast to receive that honor since Tatjana Thuener-Rego in 2006. Artz competed in all four events at the Big Ten Championships for only the third time in her career, scoring 39.375, which includes a tie for fourth on balance beam (9.875) and a tie for fifth on floor exercise (9.925).
The Wolverines scored 49.700 on floor exercise, a new program record. The five counted scores came from Sachi Sugiyama (9.900), Natalie Beilstein (9.950), Nicole Artz (9.925), Reema Zakharia (9.925) and Joanna Sampson (10.0). The previous program record was 49.650, set on March 7 against Utah/UCLA.
Head coach Bev Plocki announced on Monday (March 31) that sophomore Austin Sheppard would miss the remainder of the season after suffering a broken ankle in practice last week. She is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of the 2015 season. She will have two years of eligibility left.
Joanna Sampson and Austin Sheppard were named regular-season All-Americans by the National Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches Association (NACGC/W) on Monday (March 31). Sampson received first-team honors in the all-around and on floor exercise and second-team honors on uneven bars, while Sheppard received first-team honors on vault. [ Release ]
Five gymnasts received All-Big Ten distinction on 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 ]
Seven gymnasts received Academic All-Big Ten recognition last Wednesday (March 26): Teresa Arthur, Shelby Gies, Joanna Sampson, Austin Sheppard, Sachi Sugiyama, Lindsay Williams, Reema Zakharia. [ Release ]
Through 11 competitions, U-M is averaging 196.791, 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 averaging 49.350 on floor exercise (tied for program best in a single season), 49.307 on vault (second highest), 49.241 on uneven bars (third highest) and 48.893 on balance beam (seventh highest). Individually Joanna Sampson is averaging 39.490, which, if it stood, would be a program record for highest all-around average in a single season. That record is currently held by Elise Ray (39.458 in 2004).
Senior Joanna Sampson has scored 39.000 or higher in 30 career meets, tied for eighth on the school's all-time list with Calli Ryals (2001-04). For her career, Sampson has won or tied for 18 all-around titles and 51 individual event titles (including championships). Nearly half of her routines this year (21 of 43) have been scored at 9.900 or higher.
Nearly half of Michigan's routines this year -- 121 of 264 (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 championships and one Big Ten regular-season championship and qualified for two NCAA Championships (2011, 2013) and one NCAA Super Six (2011).
Through 11 meets, Michigan has scored above 49.000 in 36 of 44 rotations, while U-M gymnasts have won 33 of 44 individual-event titles (including championships).
Q: Coming off that Big Ten Championship-winning performance, you had a full week in the gym. How did practices go?
A: Everybody had last Monday off and we were back in the gym Tuesday through Friday. I thought practices were fine. It's a little bit harder to have the kind of energy we had the week before going into the Big Ten Championship because we had a big meet coming up that weekend. When you know it'll be a full week of practice and then a weekend off, you cannot get ramped up too early. It was a good, steady week of practice. I would expect to see the energy start to turn up this week.
Q: After such a performance, was it difficult to re-focus or did that happen quickly? Going along with that, how excited is this team to get back out on the floor and compete again?
A: We talked a little bit about it. Everyone feels good after a win like that. I don't think you lose that feeling. I think they still have it even now. That accomplishment, that feeling of knowing we did what we set out to do all along helps build confidence. We talked about keeping it going, but now, the challenge is changing focus to what the next challenge will be. We accomplished this big goal and now we're going into this Regional with the goal to win. We want to go into Athens and come out as the No. 1 team. The question we have to ask ourselves is what do we have to do in order to go in there and accomplish this?
Q: The team was dealt a setback with Austin's injury last week. You've said earlier this year that you're looking at challenges as opportunities and though tough, this is an opportunity for others to step up. How has the team handled it so far?
A: I think everyone feels terrible for Austin. She had an opportunity to do some big things in this postseason, but I don't think anybody on our team in any way, shape or form is letting her injury affect us in any other way other than to be that much more determined. We're not going to replace Austin with another Austin. What we have to do is cumulatively get better and realize that if everybody improves something that they're doing by a quarter-of-a-tenth, we will make up that difference as a team. It's getting everyone to realize that paying attention to the little details do make a difference. We went around and asked each athlete, 'If you hit that handstand consistently,' or 'If you stick that landing consistently,' or 'If you make that jump a little bit bigger,' would it be possible? Everyone said yes. It's getting them to realize that we don't have to replace a 9.95 with another 9.95, but we can make up the tenth or the tenth-and-a-quarter difference or whatever it is if everyone gets just a little bit better in one area and we all think that is a very doable goal.
Q: How much will experience play a factor in heading down to Georgia for Regionals? You've got a senior class that has been in this situation before and knows what's on the line, not to mention they have competition experience at Stegeman Coliseum from their freshman year.
A: I think it always does. I think about our freshmen and the youth of our team and I don't feel like they compete like freshmen. They compete like veteran performers. Having that leadership and experience is definitely to our advantage, but I don't feel like we have underclassmen that are going to be phased by going into a place like Athens. This is a very steady team. Whatever venue we go in to, we're going to do what we do. It's a total team effort and our leadership is very important to that like it is to everybody. They're a pretty even-keeled bunch.
Q: With byes and a large crowd expected on Saturday, are there any different or unique techniques that are being used in practice to simulate the environment?
A: We are. Today, we'll come in and warm-up then go sit in the locker room for 15 minutes to simulate a bye rotation. We're going to let the leaders do with them in there what they would typically do on a bye so they don't get cold. Then we'll bring them back out, do a touch and compete. We're going to simulate that so they know what that'll feel like when we go into competition because that will be something new and different, especially for our freshmen. We haven't had to do that this year. Other than that, we'll have a different rotation, but we've talked about all the reasons why we think that rotation can work to our advantage. This team has embraced everything that we've talked to them about in terms of preparing for this and being ready to go in there and do it. At this point, we're ready to compete, so let's just go and do it.
Fri-Sun., April 18-20 -- at NCAA Championships (Birmingham, Ala.)
OTHER RELATED LINKS
The All-Around (Tuesday)
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423