The West Virginia University gymnastics team opened its 2021 season with a 196.100-194.900 loss to No. 2-ranked Oklahoma on Friday evening, inside the WVU Coliseum, in Morgantown.
Despite the loss, the Mountaineers hit 24-for-24 routines to split the event titles with the Sooners, finishing first on balance beam (48.825-48.625) and floor exercise (48.900-48.775). The Sooners earned the vault (49.325-48.575) and uneven bars (49.375-48.600) team victories.
Additionally, a trio of Mountaineers made their collegiate debuts, as Kiana Lewis was inserted into the vault lineup, Nicole Norris competed on bars and Chloe Asper made her debut on floor.
“I’m very happy with our first meet,” 10th-year coach Jason Butts said. “We were planning on coming out of the gates a little conservative with what we were putting up after such a long break, but I was really proud of our team. They stepped up. We had some mistakes here and there, but it is the first meet of the year. It’s been a very strange competition and training year for us, but overall, I’m very happy.”
Competing for the first time since March, West Virginia excelled on floor in the fourth rotation, with four gymnasts scoring 9.8 or better. Senior McKenna Linnen and junior Kendra Combs tied for third overall with matching 9.85s. Sophomore Emily Holmes-Hackerd competed on floor for just the third time in her career, tying for sixth place with a mark of 9.825. Sophomore Kianna Yancey scored a 9.8 in the No. 5 slot to place eighth, while sophomore Abbie Pierson and Asper added marks of 9.575 and 9.100, respectively.
Oklahoma’s Anastasia Webb earned the floor win with a 9.925 score.
WVU also was consistent on beam, tallying its second-highest total of the night in the third rotation, as five marks of 9.7 or better put the squad’s score at 48.825. Linnen lead the Mountaineers with a 9.825 total to finish fourth overall. The mark was just short of her career high of 9.875. Junior Esperanza Abarca and Combs tied for fifth with matching 9.775s, while Pierson placed eighth with a 9.75. Junior Rachel Hornung followed suit with a score of 9.7 to place ninth, and Holmes-Hackerd finished in 10th with a mark of 9.675.
Webb also finished first on beam with a 9.925.
Lewis and Pierson paced the Mountaineers to start the meet, scoring 9.8s on vault to tie for fifth overall. Senior Michelle Waldron finished ninth with a 9.7 total, followed by Yancey in 10th with a 9.65. Linnen and Holmes-Hackerd added scores of 9.625 and 9.525, respectively.
Oklahoma’s Evy Schoepfer scored 9.925 and finished first overall.
The Mountaineers tallied 48.600 on bars in the second rotation. Combs and Yancey tied for sixth place with 9.775s. Abarca tied for eighth with a 9.75 total, while Norris and Hornung added matching 9.65 marks and tied for 10th. Holmes-Hackerd anchored the Mountaineers’ lineup and finished 12th with a 9.625.
OU’s Audrey Davis finished first on bars with a 9.9 score.
In the all-around, Webb finished first overall with a 39.575 mark, while Holmes-Hackerd finished second with a 38.650. Tonight marked Holmes-Hackerd’s career debut in the all-around, as she competed on vault and bars for the first time.
Looking ahead, the Mountaineers will travel to Norman, Oklahoma, for another dual meet with the Sooners on Sunday, Jan. 31, inside the Lloyd Noble Center. Competition is set to begin at 8 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
“We have four practices before we leave for Norman,” Butts said. “For us, that’s great. Usually, we wouldn’t get a stretch like that. We just have to get back in the gym. We have to work on some handstands. We have to work on some landings. We have some more difficulty that we can put in, and the freshmen have some routines that we can get going. This is a good start, but I would love to see this score jump by at least a half point, if not more, when we are out in Norman.”