MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 16-ranked West Virginia University gymnastics team stays at home for the second straight week and plays host to No. 13 Denver, George Washington and Temple Sunday, March 3, at 2 p.m., at the WVU Coliseum.
The competition is the Mountaineers’ (8-6, 1-1 Big 12) second quad-meet in as many weeks, and WVU will be looking for its fourth straight 196.0+ mark at home, a feat never achieved in program history.
“I think our success so far this season can be attributed to our focus on hitting good gymnastics,” says second-year coach Jason Butts. “We’re making sure we get the job done in Cary Gym every day. We want to put on the ‘West Virginia Show,’ as the team calls it, every weekend. I would love to continue this streak. We can only do that by maintaining our focus and putting on another great show.”
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 loop also will be available at the conclusion of the meet.
The Mountaineers enter Sunday on a high, having jumped nine spots in this week’s GymInfo Poll to No. 16. WVU’s poll placement is due to its 195.56 regional qualifying score (RQS); the Mountaineers own a 195.211 season average. WVU also is nationally ranked No. 16 on vault and floor and No. 21 on balance beam.
WVU is 5-2 in home meets this season and 1-6 against ranked opponents.
“It’s crucial we stay in the top 18 for regional seeding; that’s the team’s goal,” explains Butts. “The coaching staff breaks it down each week with the team and reminds them to just keep it simple. We tell them every meet – you’re the only team in this building. I think that helps our consistency, and that’s our best defense against these ranked opponents. The team works hard every week to prove it belongs among the nation’s best. They’re proud of their ranking, but it’s not something that consumes them. It’s a sidebar to competing great gymnastics.”
WVU went 2-1 in its last home quad-meet on Feb. 24, scoring a season-best 196.55 in a second-place effort against No. 3 Michigan (196.925), New Hampshire (194.875) and Towson (193.15). The Mountaineers tallied 16 scores of 9.8 or better and totaled season bests on vault (49.25), beam (49.075) and floor (49.325). Senior Kaylyn Millick was the highlight of the meet, as she scored 39.35, her fourth straight score of 39.35 or better, and finished first overall. She also tied for first on floor with a career-best 9.95 score.
“We were so consumed by scores last year. This season, the less we worry about them, the higher we go,” says Butts. “We know we can only score so high, therefore it’s not something we worry about during competition. We just focus on our job, and we have a great leader in Kaylyn. She is staying healthy and focused, and her drive is to go out on top. She’s on track to definitely have her best season ever, and that’s what we ask of all our seniors. I think her individual success is motivating each of these girls to give her best effort daily.”
The Mountaineers and the Pioneers (11-2, 4-0 WAC) will meet for the second time in two years. WVU squeezed out a victory at then-No. 19 DU last season, as the then-No. 24 Mountaineers overcame an early deficit and finished first at the quad-meet with a 194.175 score; DU tallied 194.1 and finished second, while then-No. 13 Missouri placed third (194.025) and Western Michigan finished fourth (193.825). The two teams last met at the Coliseum in 2004, with WVU earning a 195.3-192.675 victory. The Mountaineers own a 4-2 series advantage.
Sunday’s meeting between WVU and GW, former foes in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL), is the first of two this season, as the squads also will compete on Sunday, March 10, in Washington, D.C. The Mountaineers went 2-0 against the Colonials (9-11, 2-7 EAGL) in 2012, defeating GW, 195.775-193.125, at the Coliseum on Jan. 29, and 196.475-194.05, at the EAGL Championship, at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House, on March 24; the Mountaineers won the title that day, while the Colonials finished seventh. WVU owns a 43-1 record against GW.
The Mountaineers and the Owls (4-15) have met 41 times since 1980. The two squads last saw each other in 2009, with WVU scoring a 195.65-191.625 victory at the Coliseum. The Mountaineers own a 40-1 series advantage.
Millick is nationally ranked No. 33 in the all-around and No. 48 on floor. Classmate Alaska Richardson precedes Millick in the floor poll at No. 34; combined the duo has scored below 9.8 on the event only three times this year. Junior Hope Sloanhoffer also ranks nationally in the all-around and checks in at No. 31.
Freshman Jaida Lawrence is the team’s top vaulter, as she ranks No. 22 in the nation and No. 1 in the Big 12 Conference. Since scoring 9.725 in her collegiate debut on Jan. 11, the Rocky Hill, Conn., native has not scored below 9.85 and has earned a career-best 9.9 three times.
Sophomore Beth Deal will anchor the beam lineup for the fourth straight week. She earned a season-high 9.875 on Feb. 24. Additionally, Sloanhoffer continues to give the uneven bars lineup a boost. The Cornwall, N.Y., native paced the team and finished third overall last week with a 9.825 score.
The Pioneers clinched the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title with a first place, 195.8 showing in their home quad-meet at Hamilton Gymnasium on Feb. 23. DU owns a season-high score of 196.6 and a season-best road score of 196.4. GW is coming off a season-best score of 194.825, in a fourth-place showing at then-No. 17 Maryland’s quad-meet on Feb. 22. Temple last scored 190.6 in a third-place showing at Towson on Feb. 17.