Jan. 5, 2017
DENVER – The No. 14-ranked University of Denver women’s gymnastics begins its 2017 campaign with a road trip to No. 16 Minnesota on Saturday, January 7, at 5:30 p.m. MT.
MEET #1: No. 14 Denver (0-0, 0-0 Big 12) at No. 16 Minnesota (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Date and Time: Saturday, January 7, at 5:30 p.m. MT
Location: Sports Pavilion/5,840 (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Tickets: Buy Tickets
Live Stats: Minnesota live stats
Live Stream: BTN Plus
Meet Info: Denver meet notes | Minnesota meet notes
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Twitter: @DU_Gymnastics | @DU_Pioneers
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The Pioneers are led by head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart in her 19th season. Under Kutcher-Rinehart, DU has qualified to 18 consecutive NCAA Regionals and is seeking its fourth trip as a team to the NCAA National Championships.
Denver enters 2017 ranked No. 14 in the preseason coaches’ poll—the team’s highest preseason ranking since 2009. DU finished the 2016 season ranked No. 15 and inside the top 25 on all four events (including in the top 10 on bars and floor).
Returning from last year’s roster are nine student-athletes, including seniors Rachel Fielitz (Walden, N.Y.), Leah Lomonte (Katy, Texas) and Julia Ross (Henderson, Nev.). Among the team’s other returners are junior Nikole Addison (Fort Myers, Fla.), and sophomores Claire Kern (Charlotte, N.C.) and Kaitlyn Schou (Orlando, Fla.).
The Pioneers welcome three freshmen for 2017, including Minnesota native Maddie Karr (Stillwater, Minn.). Fellow freshmen Courtney Loper (West Des Moines, Iowa) and Sam Ogden (Allen, Texas) also join the roster. All three are expected to make their collegiate debuts at Saturday’s meet.
The three freshmen come from some of the most prestigious club gyms in the nation.
Karr joins DU from Twin City Twisters and was the 2016 J.O. National Champion in the all-around, vault, bars and beam. She also tied for second on floor. At DU’s December 17 intrasquad, she posted a big 39.500 in the all-around, highlighted by a 9.950 on beam and 9.900 on floor.
Loper is from Chow’s Gymnastics and qualified to J.O. Nationals every year since 2012. In 2015, she finished eighth on floor at J.O. Nationals. She competed on beam and floor at the intrasquad with solid performances.
Ogden is a former international elite gymnast from WOGA. She competed the 2014 Secret Classic, finishing ninth in the all-around. At the intrasquad, she posted a 9.850 on bars and a 9.875 on beam, tying for first- and second-highest, respectively.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Vault: One of DU’s top vault scorers in 2016 returns this season with Ross, who had the third-highest average on the event last season. Addison and Schou also made numerous appearances on vault in 2016. Fielitz, who missed 2016 with an injury, is also expected to return to the vault line up in 2017. Freshman Karr brings a 10.0 start value with her Yurchenko 1.5 vault.
Bars: Ross again returns as one of the team’s highest-scoring bars workers from 2016, scoring at least a 9.800 in DU’s final seven meets (including two career-high 9.900s). Senior Lomonte, a bars specialist, returns in 2017 after missing 2016 with an injury. Freshmen Karr and Ogden debuted their bars sets at the team’s intrasquad on December 17, posting two of the highest scores of the night.
Beam: DU’s second- and third-highest average scorers on beam from 2016 return this season with Schou and Ross, respectively. In her last season of competition in 2015, Fielitz had the team’s highest average score on beam. At the December 17 intrasquad, freshman Karr had the highest score on any event in the meet with her 9.950 on beam.
Floor: Addison appeared in the floor line-up in every meet in 2016, finishing with the third-highest average score and a new career high of 9.925. Schou also competed on floor in every meet in 2016 and had the team’s fourth-highest average. Freshmen Karr and Loper competed floor at last month’s intrasquad where Karr had the event’s highest score with a 9.900.
EYE ON THE RANKINGS
Denver holds the No. 14 spot in the preseason coaches’ poll, which is the highest the Pioneers have been ranked in the preseason since 2009. Nine of DU’s opponents in 2017 are ranked in the top 36, including six in the top 25.
In addition to this weekend’s meet against No. 16 Minnesota, DU will compete against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 6 Utah, No. 12 Nebraska and No. 15 Boise State on the road. Denver will also host Minnesota and Boise State at home while also welcoming No. 24 Illinois.
Finishing out DU’s schedule are top 36-teams No. 26 Southern Utah, No. 27 Ohio State and No. 29 West Virginia.
DU joins two other Big 12 Conference teams in the preseason rankings: No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 29 West Virginia. Iowa State received votes and is just outside the top 36.
LAST TIME OUT
Saturday’s season opener brings the Pioneers back to the site of their final meet in 2016 where they competed at NCAA Regionals in Minneapolis, finishing fourth with a 195.725. Then-senior Nina McGee (Cincinnati, Ohio) took the floor title and placed second in the all-around to advance to the NCAA National Championships where she would eventually bring home the program’s first-ever individual national title.
At Regionals, DU outscored all teams on floor with a final team tally of 49.250. Denver’s 49.175 on vault tied for the meet’s second-highest on the event and was only .025 off DU’s season high. All of the Pioneers’ counted scores on vault and floor were 9.800 or higher. Six Pioneers combined for 11 top-10 individual finishes including at least one on each event.
The Gophers finished their 2016 season at the NCAA National Championships, finishing No. 12 overall with a score of 194.9875. Then-senior Lindsay Mable placed fifth in the all-around and tied for fourth on bars. Fellow senior Hanna Nordquist tied for fourth on beam.
Minnesota was ranked No. 12 to close out 2016 and enters 2017 ranked No. 16 in the preseason poll. The Gophers are led by third-year head coach Jenny Hansen. Juniors Ciara Gardner and Abby DeMuse return in 2017, and the team welcomes eight freshmen.
This will be the 21st meeting between Denver and Minnesota. DU leads the head-to-head record 11-8-1 after the teams’ three meetings in 2016. Minnesota topped DU in their last meeting at the NCAA Regionals in Minneapolis (196.175-195.700), as well as at a neutral-site meet at Air Force (197.225-197.050). DU came out on top in their first meeting on March 4 in Denver (196.825-196.175).
The last time the two teams met in Minneapolis in the regular season was the 2010 season opener on January 9 where DU won 195.575-193.375.
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