Dec. 31, 2012
Friday, Jan. 4 -- at Cancun Invitational - vs. No. 9 Oregon State, BYU (Cancun, Mexico), 7 p.m. CST
The No. 10-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team (0-0) will open its 38th season of varsity competition this Friday (Jan. 4) by facing No. 9 Oregon State (0-0) and BYU (0-0) in a tri-meet at the 2013 Cancun Invitational, to be held at the Iberostar Beach and Golf Resort in Cancun, Mexico. The meet will begin shortly after 7 p.m. CST.
Last season, Michigan finished fourth in the Big Ten and third at the NCAA Auburn Regional. It finished the season ranked No. 13 and was the highest-ranked team that did not compete at the NCAA Championships.
The Wolverines return to the Cancun Invitational for the second time in program history (2009). Michigan finished third at the 2009 Cancun Invitational (192.700) behind Boise State and LSU. This will be Michigan's third competition to take place outside the United States since 1994 (Bahamas Sunshine Invitational).
Michigan achieved a preseason top-10 ranking for the 15th time in the last 16 years, coming in at No. 10. It is the second-highest ranked team in the poll from the Big Ten (Nebraska is No. 7). Additionally, the Wolverines were picked to finish second in the Big Ten preseason coaches poll behind Nebraska. Senior Natalie Beilstein and junior Joanna Sampson were named to the 16-person Gymnasts to Watch list.
The team's captains for the 2013 season are Joanna Sampson and senior Katie Zurales. They represented Michigan at the NCAA Championships last season as individual qualifiers. Zurales is one of three returning NCAA All-Americans on the roster, along with Beilstein and senior Brittnee Martinez.
The Wolverines will get a boost in the new year with the addition of freshman Briley Casanova to the 2013 roster. Casanova, an early enrollee, graduated high school early and is the fourth member of Michigan's 2012-13 freshman class, joining Austin Sheppard, Morgan Smith and Lindsay Williams. Casanova, who trained club at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) in Dallas, Texas, is a former U.S. Junior National Team member and will be eligible to compete immediately for the Wolverines.
Michigan will face all seven Big Ten teams in dual meets during the regular season. Four of those meets will take place at Crisler Center (Nebraska on Jan. 12, Illinois on Jan. 19, Iowa on Feb. 2, Penn State on Feb. 16) while the other three will be on the road (Minnesota on Jan. 26, Ohio State on Feb. 8, Michigan State on March 2). The 2013 Big Ten Championships will be held March 23 in East Lansing, Mich.
Q: Having had some time to look back on the exhibition against Michigan State, how do you feel the team performed in a meet environment?
A: Overall, I thought they did extremely well. The only event that I felt that we performed to a lower degree than what I see every day in practice was on balance beam, but that's also very normal. Out of the eight routines, we only had two misses, and they were from two of our biggest beam workers. I'm not concerned about the fact that we didn't do as well as I'd like considering it was the first time we performed under pressure in a meet situation. I thought we exceeded some expectations in the other events, so overall I was very pleased with the outcome.
Q: You're kicking off the 2013 season in a unique way, heading to Cancun to take on Oregon State and BYU. Having taken Michigan there in the past, what's the message that you're going to give the team regarding the trip this time around?
A: We try to do this trip once every four years because it is a special, nice, extra thing. That way, everybody on the team gets to take this trip once during their four years. I do remind them constantly that we have to stay focused on our purpose for being there. Yes, when we aren't in the gym or competing, I'd like for them to have fun and enjoy themselves, but at the same time, we need to be focused on our business and not be distracted by all the sunshine. It's also an excellent opportunity to be seen and to promote Michigan. There's a very large club invitational meet down there and all those younger athletes get a chance to see us compete, to see Michigan at its finest.
Q: Talk about Joanna Sampson. In last week's Weekly Warmup, she talked about how much more confident she was in her gymnastics, and it's showing in the gym.
A: I think Joanna has really grown a great deal in a lot of different ways. She was one of several gymnasts who really made some significant changes after last year in terms of commitment, fitness level, etc. She's really fired up right now. I think that's a direct result of the commitments and positive changes she's made. That creates confidence. She feels really good about herself and her gymnastics, and that makes you confident. The sky is the limit in terms of her abilities. At the same time, having confidence is great, but we want to make sure she stays focused. She's in a great place and is primed for a great year.
Q: We obviously have yet to see the newest member of the team, Briley Casanova, compete for Michigan. In what ways will she make an impact to this team?
A: Well, we're very excited to bring Briley into our team. She's a great athlete and a very talented gymnast that will undoubtedly make an immediate impact on our team. We won't absolutely know what her competitive readiness is until she gets here and starts training. She comes from an excellent gym with excellent coaches, and I am sure that they have her very prepared. The difference is that their season starts later than ours. We need to see where she is and work her in a little bit slowly. We'll advance wisely with her because we want her to peak and be ready for the latter half of the season when we really want to be at our best.
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan unveiled the 2013 squad in a season-opening exhibition win on Dec. 7, beating in-state rival Michigan State, 195.375-191.100, inside Crisler Center. Katie Zurales, sophomore Sachi Sugiyama and Joanna Sampson finished 1-2-3 in the all-around in the victory. [ Recap ]
Saturday, Jan. 12 -- vs. No. 7 Nebraska (Crisler Center), 4 p.m.
OTHER RELATED LINKS
The All-Around (Tuesday)
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423