Gymnastics Opens Home Season Sunday

By Shannon McNamara for
January 24, 2014 12:07 PM
Sophomore Jaida Lawrence leads the team with a 9.813 vault season average.
Photo by Steve Prunty
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After starting the year with two consecutive road trips, the West Virginia University gymnastics team will open its 2014 home season at the WVU Coliseum on Sunday, Jan. 26, against NC State, at 3 p.m.
Sunday is a “Dollar Day,” and all tickets, hot dogs, popcorn and Coca-Colas will be available for $1 each. WVU students get in free with a valid WVU student I.D. Sunday also is a “Poster Day,” and fans may pick up a 2014 schedule poster featuring the Mountaineers. The team will be signing the posters following the meet at “Chalk Talk” in the Coliseum concourse.
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.
“We’re ready to be home and in front of a Mountaineer crowd,” says WVU coach Jason Butts. “I’m hoping this meet will jump-start our consistency. There’s a comfort that comes with competing in the WVU Coliseum, and we’re looking forward to that.”
For the second straight week, the Mountaineers (1-3) face a former East Atlantic Gymnastic League (EAGL) foe. A heated rivalry developed between the two squads recently, and they have split their last eight meetings. WVU and NCSU (2-3, 2-1 EAGL) have met four times since 2011, and each team has scored two wins. Most recently, the Wolfpack earned a narrow 195.2-195.15 victory in Raleigh, N.C., on Jan. 25, 2013.
The teams last met in Morgantown on Jan. 24, 2010, with WVU earning a 194.0-193.225 win over the No. 23 Wolfack in its home season opener. WVU owns a 24-14 all-time series advantage.
“We’ll be bringing our A-game Sunday and push for a victory this weekend,” says Butts. “The focus in Cary Gym this week has been on the basics. The big skills are there – I see this team complete them every day. Last week, we lost the focus we need to have for good, basic gymnastics, especially on beam. I’ve told them every day that the gymnastics is there and we are already so much further ahead than we were last year. We just need to stop making mental mistakes.”
WVU owns a 193.6 season average through two meets. Most recently, the Mountaineers suffered a tight 193.675-193.5 loss at Maryland on Jan. 17.
The squad’s bars lineup has shone brightest thus far, and the unit is ranked No. 16 nationally with a 48.863 average. Freshman Alexa Goldberg, the reigning Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Week, ranks No. 4 nationally, No. 1 in the conference, on the event with a 9.9 season average. The Ivyland, Pa., native has scored two straight bars victories and has earned a 9.9 mark from at least one judge in each meet. She tallied a 9.925 score in her Mountaineer debut at No. 10 Kentucky on Jan. 10, the third-best score earned by any gymnast this season and the ninth-highest bars mark scored in WVU history.
Senior Hope Sloanhoffer and sophomore Jaida Lawrence rank No. 6 in the Big 12 on vault with a team-best 9.813 season average. Each gymnast owns an event win, with Lawrence scoring 9.85 at UK and Sloanhoffer earning 9.875 at UMD. Sloanhoffer’s mark was her best since earning 9.9 at the 2012 EAGL Championship at Pitt.
Junior Lia Salzano has led the Mountaineers on beam in each of their meets this year and ranks No. 10 (9.663 avg.) in the conference. Sophomore Melissa Idell has proven to be a strong asset as the team’s leadoff on floor and ranks No. 8 in the conference with a 9.75 average.
Sloanhoffer and freshman Nicolette Swoboda have competed in the all-around in each of WVU’s meets this year. The duo finished first and second, respectively, at UMD last week, with Sloanhoffer scoring a season-best 38.75. Swoboda earned a high of 38.8 in her Mountaineer debut on Jan. 10.
The Wolfpack competed twice last weekend. NCSU scored a season-high 195.65 in their 2014 home opener on Jan. 17 at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., defeating North Carolina (192.45) and Towson (191.325), and falling to No. 8 Michigan (196.8). The team then traveled to Kent State on Jan. 19 and lost to the Golden Flashes, 195.4-194.15. NCSU tallied 49.35 on beam in its home victory; the mark is the team’s seventh-best score in program history. Sophomore Brittni Watkins won the event with a 9.9. She also finished second overall with a 39.375 score.
Prior to traveling to Morgantown tomorrow, NCSU will play host to a tri-meet with Texas Woman’s University and William & Mary tonight at Reynolds Coliseum, in Raleigh, N.C.

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