With a season-opening victory in the books, the TWU gymnastics team is set for its first home meet this weekend against Arizona, BYU and Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The four-team meet is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Kitty Magee Arena.
“It’s going to be a very exciting meet,” TWU coach Lisa Bowerman said. “Arizona and BYU are two very strong teams. Their first-meet scores were higher than ours, but we’re expecting to be right up there with them.”
The Pioneers made their 2013 debut Saturday by winning a dual at Bowling Green. Despite a few falls and missteps, the Pioneers rallied behind sophomore Spencer Jones, who captured her second all-around title, and seniors Bethany Larimer and Kristin Edwards, who tied for first place in balance beam and floor exercise, respectively.
Jones, a Calvary graduate, posted a winning all-around score of 38.225. She picked up where she left off as a freshman, when she earned USA Gymnastics All-America honors on floor and
was named Midwest Independent Conference Newcomer of the Year.
“She was phenomenal,” Bowerman said. “All summer long she was working hard in the gym and on her conditioning. She could have easily sat back and not worried about beam and floor because she did so well last year, but she pushed herself to improve and you can see that in her performance.”
Several members of the team are coming back from injuries, expanding to new events or attempting more difficult routines.
“We had so many people, even the juniors and seniors, who were doing new events and new skills in their routines,” Bowerman said. “Hopefully this was a good starting point for them to open their eyes and realize they’re better than they’re giving themselves credit for.
“I think, and our coaches think, that our team is more talented than they probably realize,” she said. “If we can get them to see and believe what we see in them, they’re going to be unstoppable.”
TWU has four home meets on its schedule.
Watching how her team responded last week to its worst loss of the season — bouncing back from a 25-point defeat to dominate Angelo State three days later — was encouraging for TWU coach Beth Jillson.
“It was a tale of two games,” she said. “I was really proud of the way they responded. We finally had a game where everything was clicking. Everybody was on the same page offensively and defensively. It was a complete game.”
It marked the first time in Jillson’s six seasons as head coach that TWU has won at Angelo State. It also was the first time this season the Pioneers have held an opponent to under 40 points.
TWU entered the game off a 75-50 defeat last Wednesday to Abilene Christian in which the Pioneers committed 28 turnovers, shot poorly and had several defensive lapses.
But on Saturday, the Pioneers (5-9, 3-5 Lone Star) took control from the opening tip, shot 40 percent from the floor, hit 12 of 15 free throws and played lock-down defense to claim a 61-39 win.
Wednesday’s loss to ACU “was an embarrassing loss on our home floor, and I was happy with the way the team responded on the road,” Jillson said. “We watched film, we learned from it and we moved on. You have to stay positive.
“Everybody had to step up and they did,” she said. “Everybody played within themselves and within the system.”
TWU has now registered two of its biggest conference victories on the road, including a 46-40 win at Eastern New Mexico two weeks ago. The Pioneers’ last home victory came Nov. 17 when they downed Texas A&M-International 73-56.
The Pioneers will play host to Midwestern State (11-3, 6-2) at 7 tonight at Kitty Magee Arena.
Pack the House II
TWU Athletics has joined forces with the Department of University Housing in hosting “Pack the House II” for tonight’s game against Midwestern State.
The event aims to break the home attendance record that was established last year when the inaugural “Pack the House” promotion attracted a record crowd of 1,373 to see TWU defeat Ouachita Baptist 75-65.
In addition to free admission, free T-shirts will be given to the first 250 fans. Door prizes will be awarded, and there will be drawings for a $2,000 TWU housing scholarship, a $400 tuition/fees grant and a $200 credit at the TWU bookstore.
The four TWU colleges will compete for the Dean’s Cup, which will be awarded to the college that has the most representation at the game.
Coach faces mentor
For the first time, Jillson faced her college coach last week.
Jillson played for first-year Abilene Christian coach Julie Goodenough at Hardin-Simmons from 1999 to 2001. Jillson later joined Goodenough as a graduate assistant coach at Oklahoma State from 2002-05. She also was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under Goodenough at Charleston Southern from 2006-07 before accepting the head coaching position at TWU.
“We’re good friends, but we’ve always been on the same bench, so it was definitely different for her to be on the opposite bench,” Jillson said.
That friendship took a two-hour break last Wednesday when ACU, in its last season in the Lone Star Conference before moving up to Division I, rolled to a 75-50 win over the Pioneers.