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PREVIEW: no. 9 Mizzou Gym heads back out on the road to face TWU

Who’s ready for some PPV gymnastics?!?

Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

Welcome back, Tiger Gym fans! It’s kinda weird doing a preview this week for a meet that, admittedly, you’ll probably not watch. Not because you don’t want to watch the team, but because you’ll have to fork over a little bit of green to do so, and so I’m going to try to do things a bit differently, because Mizzou will win this dual, and it should not be close.

Let’s get to it.


Meet Info

When: Saturday, February 2

Where: Kitty Magee Arena | Denton, TX

Time: 6:00 p.m. CST

TV: available PPV purchase ($10.60 total) thru this link

Live Stats: https://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=518741

History: The Tigers hold the overall lead in the all-time series, 16-1. Mizzou & TWU last faced off in a tri-meet with Lindenwood in January 2023, earning a 196.800, their highest road score to that point in the campaign. (per MUTigers.com)


Last Time On The Mats

When we last saw OUR Tigers, they took down the then-no. 3 LSU 197.325—197.225 in front of a record crowd of 7,336 at Hearnes. Let’s recap quickly.

First rotation (MIZ vault, UGA bars): The #VaultSquad continued to showcase their massive improvements as three Tigers achieved season bests and the rotation as a whole hit, yet again, a new season best (49.425). Grace Anne Davis tied a personal best mark set in 2022 with a 9.875 before freshman Hannah Horton, earning her second individual event title of her very young career, earned a 9.95 on her 10.0 SV Yurchenko 1 1⁄2. After one rotation, it was shaping up to be a tight one with Mizzou in the lead, 49.425 to 49.400.

Second rotation (MIZ bars, UGA vault): Amaya Marshall, who took the week off bars against Georgia, was back with a vengeance, earning the top spot of the bars rotation with a 9.90 on the fastest, most high-flying routine I’ve seen. Kyra Burns got the Tigers started on the right foot with a 9.875, before Rayna Light, performing just her second official collegiate bars routine, once again hit a 9.825, and then came three consecutive 9.875s by Moore, Schreiber and Titarsolej to close it out. The team’s 49.400 was a season high. While Mizzou killed it on bars, LSU took to the vault and churned out a super solid 49.325 with no counting scores lower than 9.85. After two rotations, Mizzou slightly extends its lead to 0.100, 98.825—98.725. This is their second highest two rotation score in history.

Third rotation (MIZ beam, UGA floor): In the lead with just two rotations remaining, Mizzou faltered a bit. It wasn’t terrible, mind you, and there are easy fixes going forward,but everyone was just a little off. Mizzou earned a trio of scores in the 9.7 range from Amaya (9.75), Sydney Schaffer (9.775) and GAD (9.75), I couldn’t help but think they were going to let a huge dub slip away. The Beam Queens are simply better than they showed on Friday night. The normally sure-footed Sienna, who had that near-perfect 9.975 last week, fell, thus dropping a 9.30, and having to count the others. Not ideal.

Meanwhile, the final two LSU Tigers on floor helped them take the lead going into the final rotation, Amari Drayton, a freshman, had a 9.875. And then there was the anchor who earned a 10 on floor just last week, the incomparable Kiya Johnson. She didn’t get a 10 this week but that 9.90 put the Bayou Bengals over the edge. The team as a whole scored just a 49.15 on the floor, and on such a normally high-scoring apparatus, they missed a real opportunity to take a large lead here. After three rotations, despite neither team doing particularly well, LSU took the lead for the first time and headed into the final rotation up 0.15, 147.875—147.725.

Final rotation (MIZ floor, UGA beam): This was a wild one, with LSU maintaining an edge on Mizzou thanks to Konnor McClain’s 10.0. After Haleigh Bryant’s 9.85, Mizzou countered HUGE in the five spot with Kennedy Griffin — JUST A FRESHMAN — nailed it. She knew it, her team knew it, and the crowd knew it, chanting “10! 10! 10!” at the judges. She did earn one, to go with a 9.95 from the other, resulting in a brilliant 9.975 that tied the score up with LSU’s Aleah Finnegan (a MO native) and Jocelyn Moore left to compete. Finnegan fell in the anchor spot on beam, leaving the door open for Mizzou, and Joci delivered with a 9.925. This put the Tigers at an astounding 49.600 rotation score, which is tied for their second-highest floor score in history. After four rotations, MIZZOU BEATS NO. 3 LSU, 197.325—197.225 FOR THEIR HIGHEST RANKED WIN IN PROGRAM HISTORY

“Friday night was awesome,” Welker said in the press conference on Wednesday. “That was a great experience for our team and our fans and everybody involved in so that was great. But we also have to look beyond that and go okay, hey, would that have been good enough in the postseason to get us where we need to go? And the answer is no, it’s not, right? We need to be more solid across the board. We did a lot of great things and we excelled in that moment.”

Saturday will be the Pioneers’ second home meet of the season and their second consecutive one at that. In their last meet, the Pioneers scored a season-high and recorded their first win of the season over Lindenwood. In the win, the Pioneers scored a season-high on vault (49.000), beam (48.150) and floor (48.800).


About the Opponent

Texas Woman’s University is a small public university in Denton, TX known for its leadership in the fields of nursing, education, health care professions, nutrition, the arts & sciences and business (per twu.edu). They also have satellite campuses in Dallas & Houston. Kitty Magee Arena, located on the ground floor of the three-story Pioneer Hall and has an estimated capacity of 2,700 when the bleachers are extended.

TWU was one of the hosts of the NCAA meet last year (which one?), and I imagine that helped them pocket a bit of the ticket revenue, which is nice for a school that only offers 7 women’s sports: artistic swimming (synchro), volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, soccer, hockey and wrestling.

The Pioneers have quite a schedule in 2024, facing what looks to be every SEC school, as well as Oklahoma (multiple times), Michigan State, Clemson, NC State and Arizona, among others. They’ll play host to five home meets this season, and I’d imagine that offering the meets as a pay per view option (thru Hudl) allows them to get some revenue.

Northern Illinois transfer Emma Brkljacic (V, BB, FX) and Lainey Hunt (UB) earned Midwest Independent Conference (MIC) honors this week for their performances in their home season opener against Lindenwood.

The Pioneers are led by Lisa Bowerman, who has served as the head coach since 2011 and has been with the program since 2005. Bowerman is a native of St. Louis, Mo. and the GymQuarters club team in O’Fallon, and holds her B.S. from Illinois State and M.S. from TWU. Per twuathletics.com, led the Pioneers to their 12th USAG National Championship in 2022, and a runner-up finish in 2023.


Quick Comparisons

stats via roadtonationals.com

Matchups to Keep an Eye on

While there aren’t individual head-to-head matchups, I thought it was interesting to share the no. 1 vs the no. 1, no. 2 vs no. 2, etc. And a wild card. TWU is listed first, as they’re the home team. Scores in parentheses are the highest of the season.

Floor: Daisy Woodring (9.825) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.975) | Emma Brkjacic (9.825) vs. Kennedy Griffin (9.975) | Emily Six (9.80) vs. Hannah Horton (9.90) | Madeline Gose (9.775) vs. Amari Celestine (9.90) | Sophie Hernandez (9.775) vs. Sienna Schreiber (9.90) | WILD CARD: Kami Zarlengo (9.75) OR Sofia Steffen (9.70) vs. Rayna Light (9.90) OR Alonna Kratzer (9.875) OR JJ Jachna (9.85)

Analysis: Lots of “OR” designations in this week’s lineup for the Tigers. JJ had that great 9.85 exhibition score a few weeks ago vs. Georgia, so we know she’s close. I don’t bet against Rayna, who was awesome last week, but then we also have AK, who has been a floor mainstay. Who will we see in this slot? I really have no idea. This floor lineup is so so so so so so deep. Per Shannon, “We’ve got a great starting six on floor but we also have a really good seven and eight and nine person. They’re ready and I think creating that internal competition is good. It forces people to stay sharp and keep working hard because they want to get out there and compete.”

Beam: Madeline Gose (9.775) vs. Sienna Schreiber (9.975) | Emma Brkjacic (9.775) vs. Amari Celestine (9.925) | Emily Six (9.75) vs. Grace Anne Davis (9.90) | Sophie Hernandez (9.70) vs. Sydney Schaffer (9.875) | Daisy Woodring (9.65) vs. Amaya Marshall (9.775) | WILD CARD: Caroline Bowns (9.65) OR Steelie King (9.325) vs. Rayna Light (9.80) OR Mara Titarsolej (9.825)

Analysis: At this week’s presser, Shannon talked about working Mara Titarsolej back into the rotation after sitting out the last two weeks with a bruise on the bottom of her foot. So, if the bruise is better, then we will likely see her over Rayna, or maybe someone takes the week off to rest?

After last week’s beam performance, which wasn’t the best, Shannon said, I think if we were hitting routines, and we were getting 9.7s and 9.8s, that to me would be more concerning when we’re when we’re getting 9.75 and 9.825 and you know there’s an obvious error. That’s much easier to fix, right? That’s much easier to fix because it tells me the talents everybody’s got to clean up that mistake... We went 48.90 on beam, and had we just gone maybe, you know, 49.3? That’s 4/10 higher. That’s a 197.70. That’s a big score, right? So I think it’s very encouraging. I think we certainly have room to grow.”

Bars: Kaitlyn Holland (9.875) vs. Mara Titarsolej (9.975) | Brooke Ferrari (9.80) vs. Amaya Marshall (9.90) | Caroline Bowns (9.80) vs. Hollyn Patrick (9.875) | Kami Zarlengo (9.75) vs. Sienna Schreiber (9.875) | Aaliyah Gilmore (9.75) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.875) | WILD CARD: Steelie King (9.675) OR Lainey Hunt (9.60) vs. Kyra Burns (9.825) OR Rayna Light (9.825) OR Hannah Horton (9.775)

Analysis: Again, a lot of OR designations here. I think it’s likely we see at least one of the freshmen in here in either Rayna Light, who competed in her first all-around last week vs. LSU, or Hannah Horton, who’s just done bars in exhibition.

Vault: Kaitlyn Holland (9.875) vs. Hannah Horton (9.95) | Daisy Woodring (9.80) vs. Jocelyn Moore (9.925) | Emma Brkjacic (9.80) vs. Amari Celestine (9.90) | Caroline Bowns (9.775) vs. Grace Anne Davis (9.875) | Sophia Isbell (9.775) vs. Sienna Schreiber (9.85) | WILD CARD: Steelie King (9.75) OR Emily Six (9.675) vs. Rayna Light (9.85) OR JJ Jachna (9.775)

Analysis: I think we see JJ this week, you guys, but I’m not sure whose place she takes. Maybe Sienna doesn’t do the all-around this week and gets a bit of a break? Regardless, I just want to see a bunch of sticks!!!


Goals for Missouri

  • What we have to remember here is that, yes, TWU is a lesser opponent, but there’s no time to take it easy. The scores are what matters here, not the wins and losses, and this is a chance for Mizzou to go on the road and get a mid-197. This is the time to continue figuring out rotations while still amassing big scores.
  • “Taking it one event and one skill and one routine at a time is really important,” freshman Kennedy Griffin said. “Not focusing on any like little mishaps, just really focusing on what we can do and taking it one skill at a time.”
  • “February’s really a time for us to put all four events together,” Welker said. “We’ve shown greatness on each event throughout the month of January. We can be great on bars and beam and floor and vault. But we need to do that more often.”
  • “I think what we’re looking for is just a little more consistency at a high level,” Welker said. “Going back to sticks, we did a good job, we were 7-18. We need to do better than that. I think that’s an area where we want to continue to do better. Now the good thing is, we’ve been pretty consistent on where we’ve been kind of been in that 6-8 range. But we’d like to be above that. If we’re not growing and getting better, we’re gonna get lapped by some other teams and so we’re gonna work on those little things.”