MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 21-ranked West Virginia University gymnastics team closes out its regular-season road schedule at George Washington on Sunday, March 10, at 1 p.m., at the Charles E. Smith Center, in Washington, D.C.
The Mountaineers (10-7, 1-1 Big 12) and the Colonials (10-13, 2-7 EAGL) meet for the second time in seven days, as WVU defeated GW, 196.375-195.3, at the WVU Coliseum on March 3. Both teams lost to No. 13 Denver (196.8) and defeated Temple (191.625).
Sunday’s meet is WVU’s first on the road since scoring 195.775 in a second-place finish at then No. 18 Maryland (196.175) on Feb. 17. The mark was a season-high road score for the Mountaineers. The team is 4-4 in road competitions this season, and 2-1 in dual meets.
WVU has tallied 196.0 or better in all four of its home meets this year. Only the 2004 Mountaineer squad scored four or more 196+ marks in one season.
“We didn’t reinvent the wheel in practice this week,” says Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “This team’s confidence is at a high right now. The lineups are starting to solidify themselves. Most importantly, I think everyone is excited to take this show back on the road and prove to the nation WVU isn’t just a home team – these gymnasts want to prove they can compete just as well away from the Coliseum.”
WVU owns a 44-1 series advantage over the Colonials, a former East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) foe. The teams last met at the Smith Center in 2011, with WVU scoring 193.725 and finishing fourth at the EAGL Championship on March 19. The Colonials finished eighth with a score of 192.575, while North Carolina won its second straight title with a 195.3 mark. WVU and GW last met in a dual-meet at the Smith Center in 2009, with the Mountaineers earning a 195.125-193.15 victory.
“The team should feel comfortable in this arena,” adds Butts. “It’s a great venue, and the equipment is good. I think they’re all looking forward to an easy bus trip. They’re all just looking forward to something different. They’re prepared to work hard for a win in a different venue; they want a good meet.”
Junior Hope Sloanhoffer and senior Alaska Richardson, the Big 12 Conference Gymnast and Event Specialist of the Week, respectively, will lead the charge against the Colonials.
Sloanhoffer, ranked No. 31 (39.06 RQS) nationally in the all-around, won her first competition of the season last week with a 39.225 score, her second-best mark of the year. The Cornwall, N.Y., native finished second on beam with a season-best 9.875 score. Sloanhoffer has scored 39.0 or better five times this season and 15 times in her career, tying her with Mehgan Morris (2006-09) and TeShawne Jackson (2000-03) for sixth place on the WVU all-time career 39.0+ scores chart.
Richardson, a Dayton, Ohio, native, is nationally ranked No. 39 (9.865) on floor. She hit for a career-best 9.925 on Feb. 24 and has only scored below 9.8 twice this season.
Senior Kaylyn Millick looks to get back to her high-scoring ways tomorrow, as the Washington, Pa., native has tallied 39.0 or better in four of the last five meets. Nationally ranked No. 39 (38.96 RQS) in the all-around and No. 43 (9.86) on floor, she has reached the podium a team-best 17 times, including a first-place floor finish on March 3 with a 9.925 score; she hit for a career-best 9.95 on Feb. 24.
Freshman Jaida Lawrence paces the Mountaineers’ No. 18-ranked vault lineup with a No. 27 (9.88 RQS) national ranking. The Rocky Hill, Conn., native won her fourth vault title of the season last week with a 9.875 score. She has scored 9.85 or better every week since Jan. 19, and she has hit for a career-high 9.9 three times.
The Mountaineers will open the meet on bars, and junior Erica Smith, along with Sloanhoffer and Millick, anchor the lineup. Each has hit for 9.85 or better this season, and Smith paced the squad last week with a fifth place, 9.8 showing.
Fans wishing to track the Mountaineers’ progress can find links for live scores and a video feed at www.WVUsports.com.