Mountaineers Upset No. 8 Arkansas

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • March 10, 2012 09:36 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University gymnastics team scored its third straight win over a ranked opponent and its biggest upset of the season with a 195.675-195.125 victory over No. 8-ranked Arkansas, tonight, in its home-season finale at the WVU Coliseum, in front of 1,091 fans.

The Mountaineers’ (14-4, 5-1 EAGL) win is their first over a Top 10 team since defeating No. 9 Michigan, 193.15-192.15, at Pitt in 2007. WVU is now 4-3 against ranked opponents this season. Additionally, WVU improves to 2-0 this season against squads from the Southeastern Conference.

“I think tonight’s performance and our whole season sends a strong message to the other teams that we are working toward contending for the national championship,” says first-year coach Jason Butts. “I’ve been telling this team to fight for every point, and they keep doing it. It’s tremendous to take down a Top 10 team.”

Tonight’s score, the 30th-best mark in Mountaineer history, is WVU’s fourth 195.0-plus point total at the Coliseum this season. WVU scored a program-best five 195.0-plus scores at home in 2004 and has not earned more than three in a season (2008, ’09) since that year.

“I think we’re very confident at the Coliseum,” says Butts. “It’s intimidating for visitors. We feed off of the crowd’s energy and support. We have to take that confidence on the road with us and compete the same way.”

The Mountaineers cruised to victory via two career high 9.9-plus scores, as sophomore Hope Sloanhoffer tied for the beam victory with a 9.95 mark, and junior Alaska Richardson earned a share of the floor win with a 9.9.

“I feel like Hope and Alaska are building off their ever-increasing confidence,” explains Butts. “Those were both tremendous routines, and they deserved those marks. They’re leading by example and are exciting this team.”

Sloanhoffer is the first Mountaineer to score 9.95 on beam since Jessica Bartgis and Gretchen Richter earned the mark at Pitt in 2004. Additionally, she is the first WVU gymnast to earn a 9.95 score on any event in the Coliseum since Chelsi Tabor achieved the point total on vault in 2010 against Bowling Green.

Richardson is the first Mountaineer this season to score 9.9 or better on floor. Classmate Kaylyn Millick earned the point total last year.

WVU did not trail throughout the meet and split event wins with the Razorbacks (10-6, 5-3 SEC), scoring victories on floor (49.15-48.475) and uneven bars (48.875-48.475); the Mountaineers’ floor score was a season best. Arkansas earned the wins on vault (49.075-48.925) and balance beam (49.1-48.725).

Millick tallied a career-best 39.175 and finished third overall. Arkansas’ Jaime Pisani won the all-around with a 39.6 mark, and teammate Amy Borsellino finished second with 39.35 points.

The Mountaineers jumped out to the early lead, scoring 48.925 on vault to the Razorbacks’ 48.475 bars mark.

Richardson paced the team and matched her season-best score of 9.875 for a share of second place. Classmate Chelsea Goldschrafe preceded Richardson in the lineup with a 9.8 score, good enough for fifth place. Sloanhoffer finished third on the team, seventh overall, with a 9.775.

Despite a 49.075 vault showing from the Razorbacks, the Mountaineers held on to their lead through two rotations, 97.8-97.55. WVU earned 48.875 on bars, its third-best mark of the season.

A pair of Mountaineers scored 9.8 or better, with Millick tying for second place with a 9.85 and Sloanhoffer placing fourth with a 9.8. Senior Nicole Roach finished fifth with a 9.775.

The Mountaineers went five-for-six on beam and tallied a 48.725 score, their best point total since Feb. 12, and pushed their lead to 146.525-146.025, through three rotations. The Razorbacks tallied 48.475 on floor.

Millick finished behind Sloanhoffer’s career-best routine with a fifth place, 9.825 showing. Sophomore Amanda Carpenter returned to the lineup and finished in sixth with a 9.725.

WVU solidified its win with a 49.15 floor showing, while Arkansas ended the meet with a 49.1 beam score.

The Mountaineers counted four 9.8-plus scores en route to their season-best floor mark. Millick joined Richardson on the podium and finished third overall with a season-best 9.875; the Washington, Pa., native earned a 9.95 mark from one judge. Sophomore Makenzie Bristol finished fourth with a career-high 9.85, while Goldschrafe opened the lineup with a 9.8, her best score since scoring 9.825 on Jan. 29.

Tonight’s win gives WVU a 4-3 edge in the all-time series with Arkansas.

Following the meet, the Mountaineers honored Roach and classmate Tina Maloney.

The Mountaineers return to the road next weekend and travel to No. 9 LSU on Friday, March 16, for an 8 p.m. ET contest at the Maravich Center, in Baton Rouge, La.