MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After a two-week stay at the WVU Coliseum, the West Virginia University gymnastics team returns to the road and travels to No. 18 Maryland for a tri-meet with Rutgers on Feb. 17, at 5 p.m., at the Comcast Center, in College Park, Md.
Sunday’s meet is a reunion of old East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) foes, as the three teams were conference opponents for 17 years. The Mountaineers (5-4, 1-1 Big 12) enter the competition on a high, having scored season-best marks in the last three straight meets, including a pair of 196.0+ point totals earned in their last two home meets. Prior to this season, WVU had not earned consecutive 196.0+ scores since 2004.
“We want to continue our hot streak,” says second-year coach Jason Butts. “I feel like we’re hitting our stride right now. We have a lot of confidence after our stint at home, and the team is excited to return to the road after earning success in the Coliseum. The trip is pretty easy on us, and we’re comfortable competing in the Comcast Center. The goal is still to hit 24-for-24, and we worked a lot on the little things this week in Cary Gym in order to reach that goal.”
The Mountaineers will open the meet on balance beam, a first this season, before rotating to floor. The team closes the competition on vault and uneven bars after scoring a season-high 49.2 on both events on Feb. 10.
“I think they’re ready to open on beam,” Butts says. “They’re prepared. I don’t think they mind which event they start on; you have to compete all four. We have a solid beam lineup, and I’m confident we can start very strong on that event.”
Through three road meets this year, WVU is averaging a 193.98 score away from the Coliseum. The Mountaineers tallied aseason-best 195.15 mark in their last road competition, a narrow defeat at then-No. 24 NC State (195.2) on Jan. 25.
The Mountaineers went 3-0 against the Terrapins (7-1-1, 5-1-1 EAGL) and the Scarlet Knights (7-6, 1-2 EAGL) in 2012.
WVU opened the year with a 195.1-194.225 win against UMD at the Coliseum on Jan. 8, then defeated the Terrapins in their home arena, 194.8-194.55, on Feb. 18. The Mountaineers also topped UMD, 196.475-195.95, en route to their seventh EAGL Championship on March 24, in Pittsburgh, Pa.; the Terrapins placed third that day. All-time, WVU owns a 35-14-1 record against UMD.
The Mountaineers are a perfect 53-0 against the Scarlet Knights. Last season, WVU earned a 193.475-193.225 win over RU at the Coliseum on Jan. 15, a 194.8-191.7 victory at the Comcast Center on Feb. 18, and a 196.475-193.85 triumph at the league championship on March 24; RU finished eighth that day.
WVU meets its former league opponents after scoring its first Big 12 victory with a 196.15-194.825 win over Iowa State on Feb. 10. In addition to their season-best vault and bars scores, the Mountaineers went 48.9 on floor and 48.85 on beam.
Senior Kaylyn Millick paced the team for the second straight week with a winning, 39.375 showing. The Washington, Pa., native scored 9.8 or better on each event, won bars with a season-high 9.875 tally and finished second on vault with a career-best 9.85.
Freshman Jaida Lawrence, ranked No. 48 nationally, won her third straight vault competition with a 9.875 score, while sophomore Beth Deal, ranked No. 45, paced the team on beam and finished second overall with a season-best 9.85 mark. Senior Alaska Richardson earned her second floor win of 2013 with a 9.85, and junior Hope Sloanhoffer tied Millick for the bars victory.
The Terrapins scored 195.1 in a first-place finish at home against NC State (194.6), New Hampshire (193.3) and Towson (192.25) on Feb. 8. UMD has been ranked in the GymInfo Poll since Jan. 14 and has scored below 195.0 once this season.
RU is in the midst of a three-week road trip. The Scarlet Knights are coming off a 195.675-193.7 loss at Kent State on Feb. 8.
“Maryland is having a really consistent, strong season,” adds Butts. “They’re going to be a tough competitor, and I’m looking forward to going head-to-head with them. Rutgers also has enjoyed a solid start to its season. Tomorrow’s meet should be exciting for all three teams.”