(Photo: Tyler Paley/WCSN)
The 2015-16 Arizona State gymnastics schedule was released Tuesday, featuring six match-ups that will be hosted at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. The Gym Devils season opener will take place on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. against Bowling Green.
Five of the meets will be shown on the Pac-12 Networks including three at home.
ASU will wrap up the season with the Pac-12 Championships in Seattle on March 19. The Gym Devils come into the 2016 season looking to improve last season’s record where they were at bottom of the Pac-12.
Arizona State will host its first three meets at home. The season opener will be a non-conference meet against Bowling Green State University. The Bowling Green Falcons are a part of the Mid-American Conference and went 8-8 last season. Both the Falcons and the Gym Devils lost to one common opponent last year: the University of Arizona. ASU lost by a margin of 1.250 while Bowling Green lost by 0.200, which could potentially set the scene for an exciting start to the season.
Next, ASU will face Washington in a televised meet on Jan. 18, followed by the first serious challenge of the season against the Sooners of Oklahoma University on Jan. 22. Last year, the Sooners finished with an undefeated season of 14-0 and were ranked No. 1 in the country going into in the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. Oklahoma has claimed six consecutive NCAA Regional Championships and finished third at the NCAA Championships last season.
The Gym Devils will have their first away meets when they travel to Oregon State and Stanford (Jan. 30 and Feb. 5) for a pair of tough matches. Both the Cardinal and the Beavers made it to the NCAA Semifinals in 2015 where they placed fifth and sixth, respectively. Last year, ASU met Stanford in Tempe around the same time in the season. Stanford won that meet 196.525-193.775.
After two consecutive meets on the road, the Gym Devils will return home for two meets. Up first, they will face California on Feb. 15. The Golden Bears will return sophomore Toni-Ann Williams, who was voted Pac-12 freshman of the week six times last year and finished her season by earning a spot as an individual all-around competitor in the NCAA Championships.
In what may end up being the most important meet of the season, the Gym Devils will face the Arizona GymCats on Feb. 22 at home. The GymCats hired former Stanford assistant coach Tabitha Yim as their new head coach during the offseason. Yim competed for Stanford as gymnast before becoming an assistant coach, helping lead the Cardinal to the NCAA Super Six twice. Yim replaced Bill Ryden, who was the coach for 17 years before retiring last season.
On Feb. 27, ASU will take a trip to Westwood for the team’s eighth meet against UCLA. The Bruins will be regrouping this season after graduating Samantha Peszek last year. Peszek was a former US Olympian and last season came in first on balance beam and tied for first place in the all-around at the NCAA Championships.
The Gym Devils will then travel back to the desert again for their final home meet against Big Ten opponent Penn State on Mar. 4. ASU last faced off against Penn State in the 2007-08 season. Penn State has a young team this upcoming season with 10 of its members being underclassmen.
ASU closes its regular season against the Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Ala. on March 11. Auburn was fifth in the nation for attendance last year, so the crowd will be something the Gym Devils have to adjust to.
Defending national runner-up and perennial powerhouse Utah is the only Pac-12 opponent that was left off this year’s schedule.
ASU will be led by two returning all-around gymnasts, seniors Taylor Allex and Allie Salas.
These returners will be joined by six new members for the 2016 season, each bringing something different to the team.
Look for freshmen Morgan Wilson and Katelyn Lentz to be standouts in the incoming class. Wilson finished fifth at the Junior Olympic Championships on vault as well as placing seventeenth in the all-around. Lentz placed first in the 2014 Junior Olympic Championships on beam and fourth on bars.
The Gym Devils graduated three gymnasts last season and are expecting solid progress in 2016 as they continue the rebuilding process that started last season, coach Rene Lyst’s first at the helm.
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