PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The West Virginia University gymnastics team earned a bit of redemption this evening, scoring 195.7 and sweeping the competition in a quad meet at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House.
The host Panthers scored 195.375 and finished in second place, while Michigan State finished in third place with a 194.6 mark. Towson earned 194.4 and placed fourth.
The Mountaineers’ (11-5, 2-1) win avenges an earlier loss at Pitt on Jan. 13. Tonight’s win, earned with WVU’s second-best road score of the season, pushes the team’s overall record against the Panthers to 58-13-2. WVU also improves to 22-11 against the Tigers and 11-11-1 against the Spartans.
Though WVU sat in second place after one rotation, tonight’s result was never in doubt, as the squad earned the team wins on each event but floor.
“We talked about redemption this week, and we wanted to come out tonight and compete aggressively,” Mountaineer coach Jason Butts said. “I am proud of the way this team came in here tonight, moved past a rough warmup session and competed strong. We attacked our gymnastics tonight.”
Competing in the all-around for the second straight week, junior Zaakira Muhammad
earned her second win of the season with a 39.375 score.
“Zaakira was super aggressive tonight,” Butts said. “I am really proud of her. You can see her confidence growing each week, and we just need to keep it on an upward swing.”
Despite hitting six-for-six on floor in the first rotation, the Mountaineers sat in second place after one event with a 48.75 total, a mark also earned by Michigan State on balance beam. Pitt paced with a 48.95 on vault, and Towson earned 48.325 uneven bars.
Sophomore Kirah Koshinski
anchored the lineup and finished tied for first overall with a 9.85 score. Muhammad finished second on the team, sixth overall, with a 9.775 mark, while junior Jordan Gillette
and freshman Chloe Cluchey
tied for 12th with 9.725 scores. Freshman Kassidy Cumber
added a 9.675 mark.
The Mountaineers made up ground in the second rotation, scoring a 49.15 on vault, the second-best mark of the season, and pushing its field-leading score to 97.9. The Panthers slid to second place with a 97.7 score, while the Spartans sat in third (97.4) and the Tigers remained in fourth (97.35).
Koshinski won the event outright with a career-high mark of 9.95. The Berwick, Pennsylvania, native is the first to earn the score on vault since Hope Sloanhoffer did so at Penn State on Feb. 6, 2011. Prior to tonight, Koshinski hit a high of 9.925 three times. Muhammad tied for second place with a 9.875 mark, a score she has earned in consecutive meets. Junior Robyn Bernard
, freshman Julia Merwin
and Cluchey tied for sixth place with 9.775s, a career-best matching score for Merwin, while senior Alexa Goldberg
placed 10th with a 9.75.
“Our vault rotation set the stage for the rest of the meet,” Butts explained. “Kirah is an incredible athlete. She worked really hard this week to fix her vault, and I reminded her of the key points tonight. Wow – I think her training paid off tonight.”
The Mountaineers extended their score to 146.725 in the third rotation, earning 48.825 on bars. Pitt continued to sit in second with a 146.35 total, while Towson was third with a 146.075 mark. MSU’s three-rotation total stood at 145.775.
Muhammad won bars outright with a career-best matching score of 9.9; prior to tonight, she had not score higher than 9.85 twice this year. Goldberg scored a season-best matching mark of 9.875 and finished in second place, while Cumber placed ninth with a 9.75 score. Bernard opened the lineup and finished 11th overall with a 9.725.
WVU secured the sweep tonight with a 48.975 showing on balance beam, its second-best score of the season.
Three Mountaineers tallied 9.825 or better tonight, including senior Brooklyn Doggette
and freshman Abby Kaufman
, who tied for third place with career-best scores of 9.85. Muhammad finished in sixth place with a 9.825 score. Goldberg and Koshinski added marks of 9.725.
“We’ve changed this lineup so much this season. Everyone is stepping up in training, and we’re seeing the results in competition,” Butts concluded. “We compete the six gymnasts who rise to the top, but everyone behind them is strong, too. That is what’s making us a good beam squad – we’re all a team. We’re competing for the bigger cause this season.”
The Mountaineers return to Morgantown for their home regular-season finale at the WVU Coliseum on Sunday, March 5, at 2 p.m. WVU will compete against the Panthers for the third time this season, as well as No. 16 George Washington and No. 24 Eastern Michigan.
Sunday is a “Dollar Day,” and all tickets, as well as select concessions, will be available for $1 each. It’s also Mountaineer Kids Club Day, and all youths are encouraged to dress as their favorite superhero or princess. The first 200 youths inside the WVU Coliseum will receive a free t-shirt. Additionally, the Mountaineers will honor seniors Mackenzie Myers, Doggette and Goldberg following the meet.