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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Following a season-best performance at the WVU Coliseum, the No. 20-ranked West Virginia University gymnastics team returns to the road and travels to No. 22 Michigan on Friday, Feb. 3, for a 6 p.m. meet at the Crisler Center, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Mountaineers (5-1, 3-0 EAGL), up five spots in the national rankings after posting a season-best 195.775 score in wins over George Washington (193.125) and Towson (190.875) on Jan. 20, trail the all-time series with the Wolverines (3-0, 3-0 Big Ten), 4-15.
The two squads last met in 2010, with UM earning a 196.4-194.475 victory at the Coliseum in 2010. WVU dropped its last meet in Ann Arbor, a 196.075-190.3 decision, in 2008; eight seasons have gone by since the Mountaineers last defeated the Wolverines, 196.375-196.2, at the Coliseum, in 2004.
“I’m excited to compete against a tough competitor and a ranked team,” says first-year coach Jason Butts, an assistant coach on Linda Burdette-Good’s staff the last time the Mountaineers visited the Crisler Center. “I want to see where we stand against Michigan. I have always believed you are only as good as your competition, and I am confident this team will rise to the challenge.”
WVU enters Ann Arbor with the nation’s No. 8-ranked floor lineup, boasting a 48.994 season average. The Mountaineers have been ranked in the top 10 since rankings were first released on Jan. 16. The squad also ranks No. 14 on beam, No. 17 on vault and No. 42 on bars. Nationally, UM, a sixth-place finisher at the 2011 NCAA Super Six Championships, ranks No. 11 on vault, No. 12 on bars, No. 33 on beam and No. 38 on floor.
The Mountaineers were impressive in their victories over the Colonials and the Tigers last week, setting or matching season bests on each event and tallying three team totals of 49.0 or better. WVU scored 49.1 on vault, 48.6 on bars, 49.0 on beam and 49.075 on floor.
“We need to do the same thing this week as we did last week,” says Butts. “We have to show up at Crisler the same way we showed up at the Coliseum – ready to fight and have fun. We have a good formula going right now, and we don’t want to mess that up.”
Six gymnasts earned 14 top-three finishes one week ago, with juniors Kaylyn Millick and Chelsea Goldschrafe, and sophomore Hope Sloanhoffer accounting for three each.
Sloanhoffer, the reigning East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Gymnast of the Week, won the meet with a 39.2 score, her third 39.0-plus mark of the season. She also tied junior Alaska Richardson for first on vault (9.875) and finished second on bars with a career-best 9.8. Sloanhoffer ranks No. 22 nationally on vault and No. 26 in the all-around.
In addition to her vault victory, Richardson, the EAGL Specialist of the Week, won floor outright with a career-best 9.875 score; she has scored 9.825 or better on floor in three meets this season and is ranked No. 36 nationally.
Millick, nationally ranked No. 42 on beam, tied senior Nicole Roach for the event win with a 9.85 score; the mark was a career best for both. Roach also finished first on bars with a season-high 9.825 score.
The Wolverines picked up their third victory of the season with a 194.225-193.7 win over then-No. 14 Illinois on Jan. 27, at the Crisler Center. UM won or tied for three event titles, with sophomore Joanna Sampson scoring a career-best 39.225 and finishing third in the all-around.