After wrapping up a successful road trip in Alabama last Sunday, the West Virginia University gymnastics team will compete at home for the first time since Jan. 24 against the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats.
The Mountaineers are coming into this match following a solid performance in the first three events against the No. 4 Alabama gymnastics team. However, a disappointing finish on the balance beam led to a heartbreaking loss of 197.375-195.25 to the Crimson Tide.
"We’re going have to fix up the lineup," said WVU head coach Jason Butts in an interview with WVUsports.com. "Beam is an event that we have a lot of depth on, the most depth that we have out of all four events. With some roster adjustments we should be able to get back on track."
The Mountaineers’ previous two matches were against top tier teams in No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 4 Alabama, putting up a score of 195.25 against both. By failing to hit 196.0 in a match this year, WVU has fallen out of the national rankings.
"To come in here in front of this crowd and hit the majority of our routines in a high-pressure situation says a lot about this team and proves that we are a 196.0+ squad," Butts said.
The Mountaineers set two season-high road scores on the uneven bars and floor, scoring 48.875 and 49.1, respectively. They also set a season-high total in vault with a 49.225 score, their highest vault total in three years.
Sophomore Zaakira Muhammad had a tremendous day, putting up a score of 9.85 in both bars and floor. She tied the event-high total in vault with a 9.90 mark.
Junior Alexa Goldberg put up another strong all-around performance, scoring 9.85 on bars, 9.725 on the beam and 9.85 on floor.
WVU has another tough matchup against an SEC opponent with Kentucky, who is coming off a win in a three-team meet against Kent State and Ball State in Muncie, Indiana, where they put up a score of 195.8.
Freshman Sidney Dukes has proven to be the Wildcats most proficient gymnast, ranking No. 40 in the country. Her classmate Katie Stuart has also been putting up impressive results, ranking No. 71 overall and winning the all-around title in her previous two meets.
The Mountaineers are undefeated at home this year, looking to have similar success on Sunday.
"Coming back home is huge for our squad," Butts said. "Once we get the momentum rolling at home and the crowd gets into it, the confidence that builds in the team is almost unstoppable. We hope that the extra boost we get at home will help us reach the 196.0 score that’s been evading us."
This Sunday’s meet is the fourth annual Wendy M. Roach Pink Meet Invitational. It gained its name in honor of Wendy Roach, mother of former WVU gymnast Nicole Roach, who lost her battle against breast cancer.
Spectators are encouraged to wear pink to the event to help promote breast cancer awareness. Fans are also welcomed to bring in various items to gift to Morgantown’s Betty Puskar Breast Care Center.