Gymnastics Opens Home, Big 12 Seasons

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • January 31, 2013 03:23 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After three weeks on the road, the West Virginia University gymnastics team will open its 2013 home season with its first-ever Big 12 Conference meet, as the Mountaineers will welcome No. 2 Oklahoma, Western Michigan and William & Mary to the WVU Coliseum Friday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m.

The meet is a “Dollar Day,” with all tickets, hot dogs, popcorn and Coke products available for purchase for just one dollar. Additionally, the meet is a “Poster Day,” and the 2013 WVU poster will be available for all fans to pick up.

Friday’s contest is the first conference competition of the season for the Mountaineers (2-3) and the Sooners (7-0).

“We have been looking forward to our first Big 12 Conference meet since the move was announced last year,” says coach Jason Butts. “It’s been a long wait, and we’re excited to compete against a great Oklahoma team.

“Tomorrow night’s quad meet will be exciting for our fans – there are four great teams entering the Coliseum, and there will be some excellent gymnastics out on the floor. Coupled with the ‘Dollar Day’ promotions, the meet is the perfect Friday-night entertainment for a family. The team is ready for its first home meet and a great atmosphere.”

WVU is 16-6 in home openers since 2000. The Mountaineers opened the 2012 home season at 1-1, scoring 195.1 in a win against Maryland (194.225) and a loss to Penn State (195.775). The team’s point total was its best-ever in a home opener, and the victory was the first under Butts.

The Mountaineers are 1-5 all-time against the Sooners. The two squads last met in 2009, with OU earning a 196.375-195.25 victory in Norman, Okla. In their last meeting at the Coliseum, OU trumped WVU, 195.175-192.125, in the Mountaineers’ 2008 home season opener.

WVU met the Broncos (3-1, 1-1 MAC) and the Tribe (1-2) last season. The Mountaineers defeated W&M, 194.8-191.175, in College Park, Md., on Feb. 18, and WM, 194.175-193.825, in Denver, on March 3. WVU leads both series, 14-0 and 2-0, respectively.

“Western Michigan is having a great season; they almost beat us last year, and we’ll have to look out for them tomorrow night,” says Butts. “OU is a very talented, well-coached team, and their success this season speaks for itself. William & Mary always fields a good team. We will have to be on our toes tomorrow night and will have to fight for some wins.”

The Mountaineers enter the meet on a high, as they rebounded from a poor showing at then-No. 15 Utah on Jan. 19 with a season-best 195.15 score at No. 24 NC State on Jan. 25; the mark was the top January road score in program history. Despite season-best marks on bars and beam, the Wolfpack edged the Mountaineers with a 195.2 point total. With the loss, WVU dropped to 1-3 against ranked teams in 2013.

Junior Hope Sloanhoffer earned her first 39.0+ all-around score of the season at NCSU, as she placed second with a 39.0 mark. With 12 career 39.0+ scores, she is tied with Dinorh Boyd (2000-03) at No. 8 on the WVU career 39.0+ scores chart. The Cornwall, N.Y., native also passed the 1,000-point plateau last week and now owns 1,017.1 points and is 360.25 points short of breaking onto the WVU career points chart. Sloanhoffer enters the meet ranked No. 11 in the southeast region and No. 6 in the Big 12 in the all-around.

Senior Kaylyn Millick was stellar at NCSU, as she scored season highs on all three events she competed. The Washington, Pa., native won beam outright with a 9.825 mark and tied for the bars victory with a 9.775 score. She also paced the team on floor and finished second with a 9.825 point total. Millick is ranked No. 10 on floor in the southeast region; her ranking is WVU’s highest individual mark. She needs 62.65 points to pass the career 1,000-point plateau.

Freshman Jaida Lawrence looks to win her second consecutive vault title, as she earned her first collegiate victory with a career-best 9.875 score at NCSU. The Rocky Hill, Conn, native, ranks No. 16 regionally and No. 6 in the Big 12 on the apparatus. She will anchor the lineup alongside senior Alaska Richardson, who paces the team with a 9.825 season average, good enough for a No. 15 regional rank and a No. 5 conference rank. Richardson also ranks No. 12 regionally, No. 8 in the Big 12 on floor.

Sophomore Lia Salzano has been the squad’s steadiest beam worker and enters the meet ranked No. 19 regionally and No. 9 in the Big 12.

The Sooners travel to Morgantown after finishing first at the 2013 Metroplex Challenge, in Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 26 with a 197.275 score. The squad earned wins over then-No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Georgia, No. 16 Oregon State and Washington. OU, the reigning Big 12 champion, owns a season average of 196.938 and is the conference’s top-ranked team on each event.

The Broncos dropped a 194.675-194.125 decision at No. 23 Kent State in their last outing on Jan. 25, while the Tribe finished second at North Carolina’s tri meet on Jan. 20 with a 192.925 score.

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