MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University gymnastics team travels North to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the first of three consecutive meets in the storied Backyard Brawl rivalry against the Panthers on Friday, March 5.
Competition is slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET inside Fitzgerald Field House. The meet will be streamed live on ESPN3 and is available on the WatchESPN app.
Direct links to the video stream and live stats can be found on the gymnastics schedule page at WVUsports.com.
“These next three meets are absolutely crucial,” Mountaineer coach Jason Butts said. “Every meet is crucial, but there is a lot more riding on these three. I prefer to look at it from the viewpoint that we can really make a jump in the standings. We have two more road scores that we can get here in the next week and a half and then another score at home. We also can increase our ranking at the Big 12 Championship.
“We need to get excited about these next three meets. It’s the Backyard Brawl. The last time we met Pittsburgh was when they beat us at home, and that was the first time in a very long time. I still remember that one, so I have a personal interest in defeating Pitt. We are excited, and we have an opportunity here. We have to take advantage of it.”
The two squads saw each other in a trio of contests last season, with Pitt winning two-of-three meets. The Panthers took home the victory in their last meeting, as the Mountaineers suffered a 196.5-196.425 setback in Morgantown on March 1, 2020. It was Pitt’s first win over WVU in Morgantown since 1984. However, West Virginia defeated Pitt at its home gym two weeks prior, earning a 194.925-194.575 victory in Pittsburgh on Feb. 21, 2020.
WVU is 65-16-2 all-time against Pitt. The Mountaineers also hold a 25-10-1 record in Pittsburgh, as well as a 20-4-1 mark inside the WVU Coliseum.
Friday marks West Virginia’s third straight meet on the road, as the Mountaineers dropped a 196.375-193.000 contest at Iowa State on March 1. Despite the loss, a trio of WVU gymnasts landed on the podium.
Junior Rachel Hornung, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native finished second in the all-around with an overall score of 38.15. She competed in all four events for just the second time in her career and for the first time since Jan. 12, 2019.
Additionally, sophomore Emily Holmes-Hackerd posted a team-best 9.85 on floor exercise and tied for second, while freshman Chloe Asper continued her strong performances on balance beam, registering a team-high 9.8 showing and placing third.
This week’s Road to Nationals Rankings were determined by National Qualifying Scores (NQS). WVU comes in at No. 36 with an NQS of 195.175, meaning if the 2021 season ended today, the Mountaineers would qualify for an NCAA Regional meet.
WVU ranks as high as No. 25 on floor (49.150 NQS). The Mountaineers also rank No. 36 on beam (48.838 NQS), No. 40 on bars (48.600 NQS) and No. 45 on vault (48.688 NQS).
Regionally, a trio of Mountaineers are ranked on floor. Junior Kendra Combs paces the team and is tied at No. 6 (9.875 NQS), followed by Holmes-Hackerd, who is tied at No. 13 (9.85 NQS). Senior McKenna Linnen rounds out WVU in the top 25 and ranks No. 19 with an NQS of 9.825.
Linnen also ranks No. 16 on beam (9.813 NQS).
The Panthers show an overall NQS of 194.538 and rank as high as No. 33 on beam (48.869 NQS). Last week, Pitt placed third in a quad meet hosted by LIU alongside New Hampshire and Towson on Feb. 27. Sophomore Lauren Beckwith was runner-up in the all-around standings with a career-best score of 38.875.
Looking ahead, West Virginia heads back to Pittsburgh on Friday, March 12, with competition set to begin at 7 p.m., before the Panthers travel to Morgantown for the Mountaineers’ final meet on Sunday, March 14, at 2 p.m.
“It’s an easy trip,” Butts said. “We love going to Pittsburgh. You drive through the tunnel and then come out and see the city. It’s just one of those experiences. I love competing at Fitzgerald, so we are excited for it.”