No. 10 Missouri Heads for the Arizona Sun

MUTIGERS.COM Sophomore Alex Gold scored a 9.800 on vault and a 9.725 against Iowa State last weekend.
Sophomore Alex Gold scored a 9.800 on vault and a 9.725 against Iowa State last weekend.

Jan. 15, 2009

Columbia, Mo. - With temperatures dropping in Columbia, and after a trip to snowy Ames, Iowa, last week, the tenth-ranked Missouri Gymnastics squad is ready for a warmer climate and hoping for another big win this week.

The Tigers take on Arizona State at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow night at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz. It's only the fourth meeting for the teams, with MU leading the series 2-0-1. Missouri pulled off an impressive win over the Sun Devils last year in Columbia by a score of 195.625 -195.500.

"They're always a good team," Head Coach Rob Drass said. "(Head Coach) John (Spini) has done a great job with Arizona State over a long period of time. They pushed us for everything we were worth last year when we saw them. We expect another battle this week. It will come down who hits the most routines and who is a little bit cleaner doing them."

While Missouri doesn't get a look at Arizona State very often, Drass said the Tigers are simply concentrating on their own performances. The goals are to improve on their showing last week and maintain consistency.

"I think we had a good start. We're just trying to continue to work on the little things that got us that good start, and those finer details that will help us improve," he said.

"That's our focus this week. Each week we like to get a little bit better, a little bit stronger and maintain consistency. If we can do that I think we'll be successful."

Coaches and the squad have high expectations after the Tigers' big opening against the Iowa State Cyclones. The Tigers outdid Iowa State 195.050 to 193.175, and Missouri won every single event on the night on the way to their second-highest opening night score in program history. Junior Sarah Shire (Columbia, Mo.) took the all-around title with a 39.350, propelled by a 9.900 on the balance beam, which tied her career high and was the biggest score of the night.



The win propelled the Tigers to No. 10 in the nation, while Shire is now ranked the fifth-best gymnast in the country. She was also named the Big 12 Gymnast of the Week. Teammate Adrianne Perry (Columbia, Mo.) follows her in the rankings at No. 14. Shire also ranks first on beam and eighth on vault.

Stay with for the latest news and updates from Tempe this weekend.

Scouting Arizona State Arizona State enters the 2009 season as a team defined by opposites -- a lineup dominated by seven freshmen, but lead by John Spini, the Sun Devils' coach for the past 28 years. The Sun Devils will face the Tigers in their season-opener on Friday. They entered the season ranked 24th, but dropped out of the rankings since they did not compete last week. Arizona State finished 2008 by placing 6th at the South Central Regional in Norman, Okla. after a 4-11 season. Missouri narrowly defeated the Sun Devils, 195.625 to 195.500 on March 21. The all-time record is lead by MU, 2-0-1. Arizona State will rely on senior captain and all-arounder Tiana Jean to lead the squad. Jean earned a career-best of 39.225 in the all-around last season, and posted career highs of 9.750 on vault, 9.875 on bars, 9.9 on beam and 9.875 on floor in 2008. Another name to watch will be sophomore all-arounder Francesca Mercurio who made her mark as a true freshman by notching career-high marks of 39.250 in the all-around, 9.875 on vault, 9.825 on bars and beam, and 9.750 on floor.

Shire named Big 12 Gymnast of the Week, Hatcher named Big 12 Event Specialist of the Week The awards come after strong season-opening performances from both gymnasts in a 195.050 to 193.175 Missouri victory over Iowa State. This is the second weekly award for junior Sarah Shire -- she was named Co-Big 12 Gymnast of the Week after putting up a 39.500 against Centenary in February 2008. Shire was also named the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year for 2008, and was picked for the first-team All-Big 12 on vault and for the All-Big 12 Championship team on beam. Hatcher won the bars title for the Iowa State meet with a 9.825, and placed second, just behind Shire, on beam after notching a 9.850. This is the second time Hatcher has been named Event Specialist of the Week -- she received the distinction in January 2008 after tallying season highs on bars, beam and floor against Nebraska. She went on to earn a first-team spot on both the All-Big 12 team and, for the second straight year, the All-Big 12 Championship team on the uneven bars. She was also named to the 2008 first team All-Big 12 Academic team for the second straight year.

Tigers at the top: Shire first in country on beam, fifth all-around; Perry No. 14 overall Junior Sarah Shire is ranked No. 5 in the nation after posting a knockout 39.350 against the Cyclones. Senior Adrianne Perry joins her in the poll at No. 14 with a 39.175 in the season-opening meet at Iowa State. Shire is also tied for the top spot on the balance beam with a 9.900 on the event against the Cyclones, and is at the No. 8 spot for vault with a score of 9.875. Teammate and senior Alicia Hatcher comes in at No. 13 on that same list after scoring a 9.850, and is No. 21 in the uneven bars rankings with a 9.825. Perry is also tied for seventh place in the country on the floor exercise with an opening-weekend score of 9.875, and is No. 24 on the beam list with a 9.825.

Mizzou ranked No. 10 after big opening weekend After Missouri's dominating 195.050 to 193.175 victory over Iowa State this past weekend, the Tigers were recognized as the No. 10 team in the country. The top 10 designation is the highest in program history that Missouri has been ranked after opening weekend, and it is the highest overall since the 2006 season when the Tigers were ranked as high as No. 7. Missouri is the second-highest team in the Big 12 conference -- Oklahoma just edged the Tigers by a quarter of a point to take the No. 9 spot. Nebraska slipped five spots to No. 16 after falling to then-No. 14 Denver, 194.125-194.350. Missouri is also ranked No. 4 on floor, No. 10 on vault, No. 13 on bars and No. 16 on beam.

Mizzou posts second-highest opening meet score The Missouri Tigers opened the season with a resounding statement of things to come, with dominating performances from its lineups to overcome the Cyclones, 195.050 to 193.175. Missouri won every single event on the night -- and posted their second-highest opening night score in program history. The only higher score came in 2004, when the Tigers posted a 195.350 on their way to the Super Six.

Shire ties career mark, wins all-around at Iowa State Sarah Shire's 39.35 against the Cyclones included the night's biggest score -- a 9.9 on balance beam, which tied her career high. This is her first all-around title of the season, and the fourth of her career at Missouri. She put up big numbers on the other three events, as well -- 9.800 on bars, 9.875 on vault and 9.8 on floor. Her performances on vault was also tops for the meet.

`Pink Out' set for home opener next week The Tigers' first home meet will be the fifth annual "Pink Out" on Friday, Jan. 23, when Missouri takes on conference rivalNebraska (0-1-0). Fans are encouraged to wear pink, and a portion of the admissions proceeds is donated to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center for breast cancer research.

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