The No. 25 ranked West Virginia University gymnastics team finished its regular season with a bang, earning two wins in a home-and-home series against the University of Pittsburgh.
The Mountaineers finished the regular season with a record of 10-6 after winning eight straight games and turning around their season. The team has put themselves in a good position heading into postseason play next weekend at the Big 12 Championship in Frisco, Texas.
The Backyard-Brawl series kicked off Friday night in Morgantown, the team’s last home meet of the season. This would also be the last home meet for Seniors Melissa Idell, Jaida Lawrence and Audrey Tolbert, who were honored with a video tribute of their careers at WVU set to the song "Country Roads."
West Virginia started a little shakey in the first rotation, earning a team score of 48.925 on vault, below their season average. Junior Alexa Goldberg, who is normally rock-solid on every event, fell during her attempt at the vault and earned a 9.0, her lowest vault total of the year.
The Mountaineers vault score was saved by key performances from Lawrence, freshman Kirah Koshinski and sophomore Zaakira Muhammad. Lawrence and Koshinski both tied their season-high vault marks with scores of 9.835 and 9.925, respectively.
Muhammad continued to show her consistency in the event, earning a score of 9.875. She has not scored below a 9.8 on vault at any point this season.
With a solid performance from Pitt on the bars, WVU led the Panthers by a score of only 48.925-48.875 heading into the second rotation.
West Virginia expanded its lead with an exceptional showing on the bars, earning a team score of 48.925, above it’s season average score of 48.811.
Goldberg recovered from her mistake on the vault by earning the highest overall score on the bars with a score of 9.875. Freshman Tiara Wright also impressed with a score of 9.825.
Riding a 97.85-97.675 lead heading into the second half of the meet, the Mountaineers finished the meet with solid team scores on the beam and the floor.
After an uncharacteristic slip up from Idell, Tolbert stepped up and earned her second-highest total of the year on beam with a mark of 9.825.
The freshmen on the team were the saving grace for the Mountaineers, earning a career-high 9.775 from Wright and a solid 9.8 from classmate Carly Galpin.
"As good as our seniors were tonight, I have to give a nod to our freshmen class – our newcomers are contributing some big-time scores this year," said WVU head coach Jason Butts in an interview with WVUSports.com.
West Virginia closed the meet with a dominant performance on the floor. Five of six Mountaineer gymnasts earned scores of 9.8 or higher, led by Koshinski and Goldberg with a pair of 9.875 scores.
Idell redeemed her slip up on the beam with a great showing on the floor, earning a 9.825 in her final event in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers were the eventual victors, beating Pittsburgh by a score of 195.925-193.875.
Less than 48 hours later, the team travelled to Fitzgerald Fieldhouse to close their regular season in the second leg of the Backyard Brawl series.
Both teams brought their A-game and competed in a closely contested battle for superiority. The Mountaineers came out on top with a final meet score of 195.825-195.675.
West Virginia’s score of 195.825 is its second-best road score of the year, and 196.675 is Pittsburgh’s highest team-score overall this year. It is the first time the Panthers have earned a score of more than 195.0 this season.
The Mountaineers relied heavily on their vault score, losing to Pittsburgh on bars, beam and floor. Thankfully, a combination of high scores from West Virginia and low scores from the Panthers led to a large win of 49.05-48.625 on vault, an event that made all the difference in the results of the match.
Wright continued to show her transformation into a star gymnast on the squad with career-high marks on bars (9.9), beam (9.85) and floor (9.8).
West Virginia is looking to use its momentum heading into a big opening weekend of postseason play in at the Big 12 Championship on Saturday in Texas.