Gymnastics Set for First Big 12 Road Meet

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • February 06, 2014 09:33 AM
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Freshman Nicolette Swoboda has enjoyed a strong four weeks as a Mountaineer.
Photo by Cordell Hoffer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University gymnastics team opens its Big 12 Conference season at Iowa State on Friday, Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m. ET, at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.
The meet is the Mountaineers’ (4-3) first Big 12 regular-season competition away from the WVU Coliseum. The squad is 1-3 in all-time Big 12 action.
“After four weeks of competition, we’ve learned that we need to be aggressive,” says Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “I felt like the team was ready for our first two meets this year, but we weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be. We came back home to the WVU Coliseum and gave 150 percent in both of our competitions. We need to go out this week and not hold back on anything. If we do that, I think we’ll be fine.”
WVU opens the competition on the uneven bars. The squad ranks No. 18 nationally on the event with a 48.838 season average and boasts the No. 26-ranked bars worker in freshman Alexa Goldberg (9.85 avg.). The Mountaineers’ complete rotation order is: uneven bars, vault, floor exercise, balance beam.
Friday is the fifth all-time meeting between the Mountaineers and the Cyclones (1-4, 0-1 Big 12), with each squad owning two wins. The teams split their 2013 meetings. WVU scored its first Big 12 victory with a 196.15-194.825 win over ISU at the WVU Coliseum on Feb. 10. The Cyclones evened the all-time series with a 196.175-194.675 victory at the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship on March 24 in Ames. ISU finished second and WVU placed third, while Oklahoma won its second straight title with a 197.2 score.
“The team is ready to get back to Iowa State and avenge its performance at last year’s Big 12 Championship,” says Butts. “The gymnasts know the facility and they know the team, and we’re looking forward to getting into the Big 12 part of our schedule. We’re looking for a good road performance.”
The Mountaineers return to the road following a two-week homestand which saw them tally back-to-back 195.0+ scores, including a season-best 195.5 in wins over George Washington (191.825) and Towson (192.425) on Feb. 2. Included in WVU’s day was a season-high 49.025 floor score, its first 49.0+ event score of the season.
“I really see our floor lineup coming together right now,” says Butts. “We have one spot that we still need to figure out. I really like the five set routines we feature – I think the difficulty and consistency is there. Hopefully, we’ll find that sixth gymnast soon and we can solidify that lineup.”
Senior Hope Sloanhoffer, the two-time reigning Big 12 Gymnast of the Week, won her third straight all-around crown with a 39.325 score. The Cornwall, N.Y., native scored three event wins for the second consecutive week, tallying 9.875 on floor and 9.825 on bars and beam; her beam mark was a career high. Sloanhoffer, ranked No. 50 nationally, No. 3 in the Big 12, in the all-around, also finished third on vault with a 9.8.
Freshman Nicolette Swoboda placed second in the all-around with a career-best 39.075 score. The Westbury, N.Y., native set or matched career highs on three events, including vault, where she tallied 9.875 for the win. Swoboda, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, also matched a career high of 9.775 on floor, finishing fifth, and tallied a career-best 9.75 on bars for sixth place. Additionally, she opened the floor lineup for the first time this season and helped push the Mountaineers to their season-best score.
Four different Mountaineers pace the team on each event. Sloanhoffer is tops on vault (9.819 avg.) and Goldberg leads the bars unit. Senior Erica Smith opens the beam lineup and boasts a 9.706 average, while sophomore Melissa Idell is tops on floor with a 9.75 average.
The Cyclones enter Friday’s meet on the heels of a bye week. ISU most recently scored a season-best 194.85 in a loss at No. 16 Oregon State (196.425) on Jan. 25. The Cyclones’ score was aided by season highs on bars (48.85) and beam (48.75). Junior Caitlin Brown, ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 Conference, finished second overall with a career-best 39.15 showing. She also paced the team with a second place, 9.875 score on beam.