OKLAHOMA CITY – The West Virginia University gymnastics team will face its toughest competition to date tomorrow, as the team will compete against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 5 Alabama and No. 7 Michigan at the Perfect 10 Challenge, at the Cox Convention Center Arena, at 8 p.m. ET.
Friday’s meet will be broadcast live by Sooner Sports TV on Fox Sports Southwest+ and Fox College Sports Central. Fans are encouraged to check their local television listings for specific channels. A link for live scores can be found at WVUSports.com.
The gymnasts will compete on podium, a first in a collegiate setting for each of the Mountaineers. WVU will open the meet on floor. The Mountaineers’ (5-4, 0-1 Big 12) complete rotation order is: floor, vault, bars, beam.
“This meet is like a practice round for postseason,” says third-year Mountaineer coach Jason Butts. “We need to take everything in this weekend and understand that we will see this type of environment again. I don’t want intimidation to be a factor. Each of these teams has 24 10.0-start value routines. I told our squad this week – our routines are there. We now need to clean-up our dismounts and focus on the little things. The big things will take care of themselves.”
All three of WVU’s opponents competed at the 2013 NCAA National Championships, with OU, the two-time defending Big 12 Conference champions, placing second, UA, the 2011 and 2012 National Champions, third, and UM seventh.
“I’ve told the team that the only competition we have this week is ourselves,” says Butts. “If we can go out there and do what we’ve been capable of doing the last six weeks, we’ll bring back a great road score. I think we just need to show up Friday night and not pay attention to the other four teams competing. If anything, we can admire that they compete incredible gymnastics, but we need to keep the focus on the Mountaineers. We want to put on a respectable showing for our program.”
The Mountaineers and the Sooners (6-2, 1-0 Big 12) met twice in 2013, their first season as conference foes, and OU earned two victories. WVU fell to then-No. 2 OU, 197.375-196.05, in the squad’s Big 12 opener at the WVU Coliseum on Feb. 1. The Sooners also earned a 197.2-194.675 victory at the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship, in Ames, Iowa, on March 23. OU owns a 7-1 series advantage.
Friday will be WVU’s first regular-season meeting with the Crimson Tide (5-2, 5-1 SEC) since 1997. The Mountaineers fell to UA that year, 196.85-192.525, in Tuscaloosa. Since then, the squads have met at two NCAA Regional Championships, including the 2000 NCAA Region 2 Championships in Minnesota, where the teams took the top-two spots and advanced to the NCAA National Championships. UA owns a 4-0 series advantage.
The Mountaineers and the Wolverines (9-0, 4-0 Big Ten) met twice in 2013, though only one of the meetings counted toward WVU’s overall record. The squads first saw each other on Feb. 24, at the WVU Coliseum, with then-No. 3 UM earning a 196.925-196.55 victory over then-No. 25 WVU; the score was the Mountaineers’ season-best mark. The Wolverines returned to the Coliseum on April 6 for the NCAA Morgantown Regional Championships and finished first overall as the region’s top seed with a 196.725 score. WVU is 4-17 all-time against UM, with its last win coming in 2004.
The Mountaineers enter Friday’s competition ranked No. 22 nationally on bars with a 48.813 average. The team has earned a national ranking each week this year since opening the 2014 season with a season-best 48.95 score at Kentucky on Jan. 10. Freshman Alexa Goldberg
, ranked No. 32 nationally, anchors the lineup with a 9.846 season average. The Ivyland, Pa., native has scored a team-best four wins this season.
“We’ve put a lot of attention on our vault and floor lineups over the last few weeks, and we need to go back and put an emphasis on the little details on bars,” says Butts of his top-ranked lineup. “We really focused on our dismounts this week in the gym – we can’t continue to give up points there.”
Senior Hope Sloanhoffer
, the Big 12’s No. 2-ranked all-around competitor, has scored a team-best 21 podium finishes this season, including 13 event wins. She has won five consecutive all-around competitions and as scored 39.0+ three times, including a season-best 39.35 on Jan. 26.
WVU returns to the floor following a 194.45-194.125 win over Pitt at the Coliseum on Feb. 14. A Mountaineer took at least a share of first place on each event, including a winning all-around showing from Sloanhoffer (38.7). She also tied junior Dayah Haley
and freshman Mackenzie Myers
for the floor win (9.8). Additionally, Goldberg won bars (9.85), while sophomore Jaida Lawrence
finished first on vault (9.85) and senior Amanda Carpenter
tied for the beam victory (9.8).
OU reclaimed the nation’s top ranking this week following its winning 198.175 mark at the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth on Feb. 15. The Sooners’ score is the nation’s best mark this year. Eight OU gymnasts own a combined 11 top-25 national rankings, with sophomore Haley Scaman earning the No. 4 (9.921) spot on vault. Additionally, Scaman became the first Sooner since 2010 to score a perfect 10.0 on any event with her floor performance at the Challenge.
UA enters the meet following a 197.5-197.1 win at No. 12 Auburn on Feb. 14. Senior Kim Jacob ranks No. 12 in the all-around (39.344), No. 13 on beam (9.854) and No. 16 on floor (9.883).
The Wolverines extended their unbeaten streak with a 196.65-196.125 win at No. 7 Nebraska on Feb. 14. Senior Joanna Sampson, ranked No. 6 (39.471) in the all-around, finished second with a 39.45 score.