The West Virginia University gymnastics team hosted No. 11 Penn State in a dual meet Sunday afternoon and posted a season-high score of 195.9. It still wasn’t enough to defeat the Lions, who took home the meet after posting 196.75 over the Mountaineers.
Four different gymnasts posted career-high scores on the uneven bars alone, scores that contributed to West Virginia closing the gap against Penn State.
In the first event the Mountaineers took on the vault. Combining for a score of 48.675, they came out of the rotation behind the Lions who posted 49.3 on the bars. West Virginia’s junior Jaida Lawrence finished with a 9.775, leading the team. Following the performance on the vault, the uneven bars presented an opportunity for WVU to post higher scores and bridge the gap in the meet score.
On the bars, senior Dayah Haley finished with a rough landing, posting a 9.65. Sophomore Nicolette Swoboda followed Haley and took full advantage of the chance to score, hitting a 9.75 which matches her season-high in the event. Following Swoboda, freshman Brooklyn Doggette hit a career-high 9.8; junior Lindsey Litten posted a 9.85; her career-best, freshman Zaakira Muhammad tied for third place with a career-high 9.9; and sophomore Alexa Goldberg took first place with her career-best 9.95.
“I know they’re capable of doing that every weekend and I feel like we kind of stepped up and got the job done today,” said head coach Jason Butts. “It’s something that we’ve got to make sure we do going into the Big 12. It’s a very talented bar lineup, probably the most talented since I’ve been at West Virginia.”
The deductions on the bars event came from handstands within the gymnasts’ routines themselves and also sticking some of the landings. According to Butts, these deductions were about three tenths of a point and are things that they will continue to work on this week.
Following the uneven bars, the Mountaineers were still below the Lions with the score at 98.326-97.9.
On the beam, senior Beth Deal and Doggette both hit a 9.825 on their routines. Deal had some wobbles in the landing of a skill and in the passes of her movement on the beam.
Muhammad entered the lineup for the first time on beam following a fall from Swoboda and finished with a 9.65. She had a few wobbles here and there but never lost contact with the beam.
“It’s always great when someone comes in and gets the job done,” said Haley about Muhammad stepping up and going in. “It’s nerve wracking, that’s probably the most nerve wracking spot you can be in, going after a fall. She handled it extremely well and she’s been doing that all season which is incredible for her.”
The Mountaineers were still down going into the fourth rotation, 147.600-146.750. This season the entire team has been showing up on their floor routines and posting some serious numbers.
Haley posted her second-highest career score, leading the team with a 9.925 and taking second place for her performance.
“I feel like this season, floor has been really strong for me, which is what we’ve been striving for the last three years,” Haley said. “All the hard work in the gym is finally paying off so I think when I go out there on the floor, it’s just bringing the audience in and allows them to have fun because that’s what I do when I’m out there.”
Junior Melissa Idell hit a 9.85 on the floor, taking fourth place and Goldberg hit a 9.825.
In all-around competition, Swoboda was the only Mountaineer to compete and she came out in third place in the meet.
West Virginia is now 11-8-1 on the season, with the only tie coming against Iowa State. Up next, Senior Night will be celebrated at the Coliseum on Saturday at 4 p.m., in a tri-meet against Pennsylvania and Cornell.