Mountaineers Open Season with a Win

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • January 10, 2014 09:33 PM
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Sophomore Jaida Lawrence celebrates her winning vault Friday night.
Photo by Cordell Hoffer
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The West Virginia University gymnastics team scored 193.7 and finished in third place in its 2014 season opener tonight at No. 21 Kentucky, with No. 15 Penn State and Ball State, at Memorial Coliseum, in front of 5,839 fans.
The Wildcats (3-0) finished first with a 195.0 score, while the Nittany Lions (3-1) finished second with a 193.975 mark and the Cardinals (1-3) placed fourth with a 190.875 total.
“I was really happy with how we started the meet on beam – that is such a difficult event to open the season,” says third-year coach Jason Butts. “I saw a lot of fight on that event, and that makes me really excited for this year.
“We had some missteps on floor, but they were uncharacteristic mistakes. We’ll fix that in the gym this week. The gymnastics is there.”
The Mountaineers ended the night on a high note, scoring a meet-best 48.95 on bars. Freshman Alexa Goldberg anchored the lineup with a winning 9.925 score, WVU’s ninth-best mark in program history. The mark is the Mountaineers’ highest score on the event since 2009.
“Our bars lineup is vastly improved this year,” says Butts. “I was glad the team put its mistakes behind them and finished the night strong. Also – what an accomplishment to score 9.925 in your first college meet. I think Alexa is capable of doing that routine every weekend.”
Fellow freshman Nicolette Swoboda scored 38.8 in the all-around and finished fifth overall, and senior Hope Sloanhoffer tallied 38.325. Tonight’s total pushes Sloanhoffer’s career point total to 1,407.3, and she now ranks No. 18 on the Mountaineers’ all-time career point chart.
The Mountaineers opened the season with a solid six-for-six showing on balance beam and scored 48.35. Junior Lia Salzano led WVU and finished fourth overall with a 9.725 mark, while senior Erica Smith tallied a 9.7 and placed sixth. Swoboda finished seventh overall with a 9.675.
Sitting in third place after one rotation, WVU moved to floor and tallied a 47.925 mark. Sophomore Melissa Idell opened the lineup with one of the most exciting routines of her young career. The Newark, Del., native scored a career-best 9.8, the meet’s second-best mark, and finished fifth overall. Swoboda finished second on the team, eighth overall, with a 9.775, while Dayah Haley tallied 9.7.
Trailing the field with a two event, 96.725 total, WVU moved to vault and scored 48.475. Sophomore Jaida Lawrence, an All-Big 12 gymnast, stuck a yurchenko layout full and won the event with a 9.85; she received a 9.9 from one judge. Sloanhoffer preceded Lawrence in the lineup and tallied 9.75, good enough for fourth place, and Swoboda scored 9.7.
The Mountaineers ended the meet with the top-two finishes on bars, as Sloanhoffer placed second with a 9.85. Smith earned 9.8 and finished fourth.
Tonight’s result drops WVU to 6-37 all-time against PSU. The Mountaineers continue to own advantages over UK (15-7) and BSU (8-2).
The Mountaineers continue their season-opening road trip next week at No. 24 Maryland on Friday, Jan. 17, at the Comcast Center, in College Park, Md.

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