MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 25-ranked West Virginia University gymnastics team opens its two-week homestand with the first-ever “Wendy M. Roach Invitational” Pink Meet on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m., at the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers will welcome No. 3 Michigan, New Hampshire and Towson.
Fans are encouraged to bring sundry items, such as scarves, nail polish, books, lotion and socks, for donation to Morgantown’s Betty Puskar Breast Care Center and to wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness. No monetary donations will be accepted.
Sunday’s invitation is in memory of Wendy Roach, the mother of former WVU gymnast and current student assistant Nicole Roach.
“We’re excited to launch this invitational in honor of Wendy,” says second-year Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “I’m excited to see the fan support. We’re rebooting our pink meet, and I know our fans will come out and get behind this great cause.”
The Coliseum gates will open at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Fans can purchase tickets at the door, with all tickets for adults available for $5, while just $3 for youth and seniors. Groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets for $2 each. A free WVU shuttle bus will be available from the Mountainlair and the Brooke/Braxton Towers loop for an hour leading up to the meet’s start time. Return service to the Mountainlair and the Brooke/Braxton Towers loo9 also will be available at the conclusion of the meet.
The Mountaineers (6-5, 1-1 Big 12) return to the Coliseum after earning a season-best road score of 195.775 in a second-place showing at then-No. 18 Maryland (196.175) on Feb. 17. WVU has tallied four straight scores of 195.0 or better, including a pair of 196.0+ marks in its two previous home meets, and owns season-best scores of 49.0 or better on all four events.
“We’re ready to be back at the Coliseum,” explains Butts. “We’re excited because we’re riding a wave of confidence right now, having banked four 195.0+ scores. We’re looking to keep that trend going, and I know the crowd and its energy at the Coliseum will help us. We love entertaining our fans, and we have another great opportunity to do so Sunday.”
WVU is 3-1 in home competitions this season, including a 196.15-194.825 victory over Iowa State on Feb. 10, the squad’s first Big 12 win. The team also is 1-5 against ranked opponents and 3-3 in quad meets.
The Mountaineers are 4-16 all-time against the Wolverines (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten). The squads met twice in 2012. WVU lost at UM, 196.65-194.05, inside the Crisler Center, in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Feb. 3. The teams also competed at the NCAA Auburn Regional on April 7, with UM placing third (196.325) and WVU finishing fifth (195.9). UM is led by coach Bev Plocki, a former WVU gymnast who earned a bachelor’s (’87) and master’s (’89) degree in Morgantown.
WVU owns a 26-9 series advantage over former East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) foe UNH (9-3, 3-2 EAGL). The teams split their two meetings in 2012, with the Mountaineers falling, 195.75-194.225, in Durham, N.H., on Feb. 25, and winning, 196.475-195.225, at the EAGL Championship in Pittsburgh, Pa., on March 24; WVU won the title that day, while UNH placed sixth.
Sunday’s meeting is the second in as many seasons between WVU and Towson (7-7, 0-3 EAGL). The Mountaineers defeated the Tigers, 195.775-190.875, at the Coliseum, on Jan. 29, 2012. WVU owns a 17-10 all-time series advantage over the Tigers, the EAGL’s newest team following the Mountaineers’ departure.
“Michigan is having a great year and is in the hunt for its first national title,” says Butts. “UNH is hoping to solidify its spot in the nation’s top 36 and will be looking for a great road score, while Towson is always very competitive. Sunday will be great for our fans – we have four quality teams competing, and there will be something for everyone to enjoy.”
Senior Kaylyn Millick has emerged as the team’s rock this season. The Washington, Pa., native has won two straight all-around competitions and scored three consecutive 39.0+ marks, including a career-best 39.4 score on Feb. 1. She has matched or set a career high on each event and is coming off a first-place bars finish at UMD with a career-high 9.9 score; she currently anchors that lineup.
The Mountaineers follow the lead of freshman Jaida Lawrence and senior Alaska Richardson on vault. Nationally ranked No. 36 and No. 46, respectively, the duo packs a 1-2 punch in the back of the team’s lineup. Richardson, the reigning Big 12 Event Specialist of the Week, is coming off a career-best showing, winning the event at UMD with a 9.925 score. Lawrence placed second with a career-high 9.9 score; she has tallied 9.875 or better in each of the last four meets.
Richardson and Millick anchor WVU’s floor lineup, currently ranked No. 18. Richardson, owns a 9.829 season average, while Millick’s season average is 9.825.
The team’s beam lineup has found its groove, and the squad used four scores of 9.8 or better to power to a 49.0 mark at UMD. Since returning to the anchor position on Feb. 1, sophomore Beth Deal has scored 9.8 or better twice and currently ranks No. 41 nationally with a 9.8 average.
“We are fortunate this year to have a lot of depth,” Butts adds. “We’ll see some lineup changes this weekend, but that’s good. That speaks to our talent. The team is getting comfortable knowing that we are going to compete the best six scores. We may see changes in three lineups this week, but that’s OK – that means our hard work in practice is working. Each gymnast has to earn her lineup spot every day.”
The Wolverines are coming off a season-best showing in a 197.375-196.7 victory over Penn State on Feb. 16. UM has been ranked in the top three nationally each week this season, including two stints at No. 1. The squad also ranks in the top 10 on each event, including a No. 1-ranking on floor.
UNH is closing out a three-week road trip and is coming of a 192.725 showing in a first-place finish at Air Force on Feb. 16. The Tigers also won last weekend, picking up three non-conference victories with a 193.275 showing at home on Feb. 17.