No. 24 Gymnastics Opens 2013 at Pitt

  • By Shannon McNamara
  • |
  • January 10, 2013 03:15 PM
  • |


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 24-ranked West Virginia University gymnastics team opens its 2013 campaign at Pitt on Friday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m., at Fitzgerald Field House.

The Mountaineers enter the season, their first in the Big 12 Conference, ranked for the first time since 2010. The squad looks to build on a 2012 campaign that saw WVU win its league-best seventh East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) title, earn 21 victories, its first 20-win season since 2008, and finish fifth at the NCAA Auburn Regional Championships with a 195.9 score, the top regional mark in program history.

“This team is ready to go and show everyone what we’re capable of accomplishing,” says second-year coach Jason Butts. “It’s been a long, productive four months in Cary Gym, and we’re all ready to put our hard work on display.”

Friday’s meet, also the first of the season for Pitt, provides a familiar setting for the Mountaineers, as the Field House played host to the 2012 EAGL Championship last March.

“It really feels like season never ended, especially because we’re opening at Fitzgerald Field House,” explains Butts. “We want to walk into that gym like we never skipped a beat. Our hope is to build on the momentum we ended with in 2012. The team feels really comfortable competing at Pitt and is excited to get out there on the equipment.”

For the first time since 1996, the Mountaineers and the Panthers will compete in a non-conference meet, as the two teams were former adversaries in the EAGL. This marks the 67th all-time meeting between the squads, with WVU holding a 52-12-2 series edge. The teams met only once in 2012, with WVU trumping Pitt, 196.475-195.375, at the Panther-hosted EAGL Championship; Pitt finished fifth that day.

The Mountaineers are 1-1 in season openers under Butts, defeating Maryland (195.1-194.225) and falling to Penn State (195.775-195.1) in the 2012 opener at the WVU Coliseum. Friday’s meet marks the fourth time in five years WVU has opened its season on the road.

“I just want this team to focus on us,” says Butts. “I want us to be consistent. We put all the work we needed to in the gym over the course of preseason, and now it’s time for us to just compete and not get in our own way.”

Thirteen gymnasts return for the Mountaineers this season, including junior Hope Sloanhoffer, the 2012 EAGL Gymnast of the Year and league all-around, vault and bars champion. The EAGL’s top-ranked gymnast each week last season, she paced the squad on vault and beam with respective 9.823 and 9.802 season averages. She finished the year nationally ranked No. 33 in the all-around, No. 47 on vault and No. 48 on beam.

Senior Kaylyn Millick will join Sloanhoffer in the all-around competition this season. One of the team’s most-consistent gymnasts, the Mountaineers will rely on her solid score potential, especially on bars, as she led the team last year with a 9.765 season average.

Seniors Alaska Richardson and Chelsea Goldschrafe also will factor heavily in the team’s success this season, as both are expected to compete in at least three events. Richardson, the team’s most-explosive gymnast, ranked No. 9 in the southeast region on floor in 2012 and paced the Mountaineers with a 9.821 season average. She also was regionally ranked No. 15 on vault. Goldschrafe, regionally ranked No. 19 on vault in 2012, was second on the team with a 9.782 season average; she scored a career-best 9.85 four times.

A young Panthers squad enters Friday’s meet without reigning EAGL Rookie of the Year Haley Bodenheimer, as she is out with a season-long injury. Pitt is led by 27-year coach Debbie Yohman.

Fans wishing to track the Mountaineers Friday night can find a link for live scores HERE and a link for a video feed HERE.