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Gymnastics Victorious in Home Opener


By Shannon McNamara for WVUsports.com
January 26, 2014 06:30 PM
Junior Beth Deal anchored the beam lineup with a winning, season-best 9.85 score.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks Photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A season-best score pushed the West Virginia University gymnastics team to a 195.425-195.4 victory over NC State today, in the team’s 2014 home season opener at the WVU Coliseum.
 
The Mountaineers (2-3) tallied season highs on all but uneven bars and scored team wins on vault (48.925-48.875) and bars (48.725-48.55). The Wolfpack (4-3, 2-1 EAGL) scored wins on beam (48.875-48.8) and floor (49.1-48.975).
 
Despite building a two-rotation lead, WVU trailed 146.525-146.45 going into its final event, floor exercise. Career-high scores from senior Hope Sloanhoffer, junior Dayah Haley and freshman Alexa Goldberg pushed the Mountaineers to a season-best 48.975 showing and gave them the marginal edge over the Wolfpack.
 
“I was really thrilled with our performance today,” says third-year Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “This is where I wanted this team to be at the start of the year, so I’m glad we were able to make that happen. I knew competing at the WVU Coliseum would help jump-start the squad. Having said that, I don’t think we received any advantage, and there’s still a lot we can fix. We can compete like this on the road, too, so I hope today gave everyone some confidence.
 
“Most importantly, I’m glad we were able to put on a great show for our fans! I know it was awful out there today, and the whole program appreciates the support that everyone showed us.”
 
Sloanhoffer shone brightest in front of the supportive home crowd of 974 fans, finishing first overall with a season-best score of 39.35. The mark is the Cornwall, N.Y., native’s best point total since tallying a career-high 39.5 at the 2012 East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Championship at Pitt.
 
Freshman Nicolette Swoboda matched her season-best score of 38.8 and finished second, while NCSU’s Brittni Watkins scored 37.85 and finished third.
 
“Hope’s consistency in practice is paying off,” says Butts. “She’s the most consistent gymnast I’ve ever worked with, and she is this team’s rock. Nicolette has been very consistent, too. For a freshman to hit four-for-four three straight weeks is pretty incredible.”
 
Three scores of 9.8 or better on vault helped the Mountaineers jump out to an early lead.  Sloanhoffer won the event for the second straight week, as she and NCSU’s Diahanna Ham each scored 9.85. Swoboda and sophomore Jaida Lawrence tied NCSU’s Stephanie Ouellette for third with 9.8s, while Mountaineer freshman Emma Lasker tallied a career-best 9.75 in her Coliseum debut and finished seventh.
 
“We challenged them in the gym this week on vault,” explains Butts. “We’re asking these student-athletes to do things they aren’t used to doing. We need a few more to step-up; we’re almost a 196 team.”
 
Sloanhoffer stood at the top of the podium again following bars, as she and Goldberg, ranked No. 4 nationally, tied for first place with 9.825 marks. Lawrence opened the lineup with a season-high 9.725 and tied for fourth place, while senior Erica Smith tallied 9.7.
 
The Mountaineers were much improved on beam this week, hitting five-for-six routines. Junior Beth Deal rode an altered routine to victory, as she finished first with a season-high 9.85. Smith opened the lineup with a steady performance and tied for second place with a season-best 9.8, while Sloanhoffer scored 9.775, also a season high, and placed fourth. Of note, Swoboda tallied a career-high 9.75, while senior Amanda Carpenter made her season debut and tallied 9.625.
 
“We changed a few things up on beam this week, and that really made a difference,” says Butts. “Hope and Beth finished that lineup strong, and we needed that from those two. We still need to work on our focus, but this lineup was much improved this week and we’re almost there.”
 
Sloanhoffer punctuated her stellar day with a career-high 9.9 on floor. She has now tallied the score at least once each season since 2012. NCSU’s Watkins and Kristen Harabedian tied for second with 9.85s, while Goldberg finished fourth with a career-high 9.825 showing. Haley finished seventh with a career-best 9.8, the fourth-highest floor score today, while sophomore Melissa Idell opened the lineup with a 9.75 and Lawrence closed it out with a 9.7 showing in her season floor debut.
 
With their win, the Mountaineers improve to 25-14 over the Wolfpack.
 
WVU returns to the Coliseum next weekend and plays host to George Washington and Towson on Sunday, Feb. 2, at 3 p.m., in the second-annual “Wendy M. Roach Invitational.” The invitational, named after former WVU gymnast and current graduate assistant Nicole Roach’s mother, is a “Pink Meet” to promote breast cancer awareness. All fans are encouraged to wear pink, and the team will accept sundry item donations for Morgantown’s Betty Puskar Breast Care Center.



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