WVU Wins 2012 EAGL Championship

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • March 24, 2012 06:31 PM
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PITTSBURGH, Pa. – In the lead the entire meet, the West Virginia University gymnastics team scored a season-best 196.475 and won its league-best seventh East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Championship today, at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House.

The Mountaineers’ (21-5, 12-1 EAGL) winning score matches the 10th-best team score in program history.

“I’m happy to see this team’s hard work and effort come together at the right time,” says first-year coach Jason Butts. “This was a great meet to have our season-best performance, and this should give us confidence that we can compete with any team at the regional championship. We handled the pressure and adversity of the day well, and like every meet before this season, we fought.

“It’s a tremendous feeling to win in my first year as head coach, but that feeling is all about the pride I have for this team.”

Sophomore Hope Sloanhoffer, the 2012 EAGL Gymnast of the Year, was the meet’s outright champion with a career-best 39.5 score. The Cornwall, N.Y., native also won vault and uneven bars with matching season-best scores of 9.9. Sloanhoffer was the outright uneven bars champion.

Sloanhoffer’s three league titles match a conference-best mark. She is the first Mountaineer to win three EAGL titles since Mehgan Morris did so in 2009.

“Hope put on a gymnastics clinic today,” says Butts. “It was text-book gymnastics. She was the team’s rock.”

With the EAGL title on the line, freshman Beth Deal, the final gymnast on the apparatus, scored a career-best 9.9 and won the balance beam title outright. The Parkersburg, W.Va., native is the first Mountaineer rookie to win an EAGL title since current senior Tina Maloney snagged the vault award in 2009.

“It’s asking a lot of a freshman to go out there and hit beam under pressure,” explains Butts. “Beth knew she had to stay on the beam and have a good routine. She handled it like a champion. Beth is a great beam worker, and she proved today why she deserves her lineup spot.”

Today’s title is the squad’s first since winning at the Coliseum in 2008. The Mountaineers have never gone more than four years between league championships. Of note, WVU won the last EAGL Championship at Pitt with a 197.05 score in 2004.

With its seven wins today, WVU secures its first 20-win season since 2008. Additionally, with its victory over No. 20-ranked NC State, the Mountaineers improve to 5-4 against ranked opponents this season.

The Wolfpack finished second with a 196.0 mark, while Maryland scored 195.95 and finished third. North Carolina, the reigning EAGL champions, finished fourth with a 195.55.

WVU won bars and beam with 49.175 and 48.85 marks, respectively. The squad’s bars score is a season high. WVU finished second on vault with a season-best 49.25 and third on floor with a 49.2 mark, also a season high.

The Mountaineers, ranked No. 21 nationally, jumped out to a quick lead, scoring a season-best 49.2 on floor. After two full rotations, North Carolina sat in second (49.125) and Pitt (48.9) was third.

Career-best 9.9s from Sloanhoffer and junior Kaylyn Millick pushed WVU toward its strong team score. The duo finished tied for second place. Both gymnasts had previously hit for 9.875 and 9.85, respectively, this season. Sophomore Makenzie Bristol earned 9.825, her second-best score of the season, while junior Alaska Richardson tallied a 9.8, her fifth straight 9.8-plus mark. Junior Chelsea Goldschrafe opened the rotation with a solid 9.775.

Maryland’s Ally Krikorian won the floor title with a 9.925.

A season-best 49.25 vault score in the meet’s fourth rotation put WVU’s team at 98.45, and the Mountaineers maintained their advantage with two events complete. UNC (98.125) continued to rank second, while NCSU (97.9) moved into third place.

Sloanhoffer paced the squad with her winning 9.9. Goldschrafe and Maloney preceded Sloanhoffer, and Richardson followed, with 9.85 marks; the score, good enough for a share of seventh place, was a career best for Goldschrafe. Millick vaulted second in the lineup and hit for a career-high 9.8.

The Mountaineers continued to torch the competition in their third event, tallying a season-best 49.175 on bars and pushing their team score to 147.625. With one event remaining for each team, NC State was second (146.9), and UNC was third (146.85).

Sloanhoffer shined again, scoring her third 9.9 of the meet for the event win. Sophomore Erica Smith finished sixth with a career-high 9.85, while Millick followed Sloanhoffer in the lineup with a 9.825 and finished in seventh place. The rotation started strong for the Mountaineers, as freshman Dayah Haley tallied a 9.8. Senior Nicole Roach also scored 9.8.

With NCSU already locked in to its final score, WVU entered the final rotation knowing it needed 48.375 on beam for the tie. The Mountaineers scored a meet-best 48.85.

Goldschrafe and Sloanhoffer finished behind Deal on beam with fourth place, 9.8 marks; the score matches Goldschrafe’s season high. Sophomore Amanda Carpenter scored a 9.7, while Smith opened the rotation with a season-best 9.65.

The NCAA will announce regional championships bids this Monday. The Mountaineers have qualified for 33 regional championships.