NORMAN – Highlighted by a tough road schedule that sees Oklahoma travel to three Super Six opponents, the Sooners will be put to the test this season with an exciting and challenging slate, as the defending national champions look to pursue a third straight NCAA title.
OU head women’s gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler and Vice President and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione revealed the Sooners’ full competition schedule Friday, which features 12 regular season events and six opponents who qualified for the 2017 NCAA Championships, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska and UCLA.
The Sooners will play host to eight teams at Lloyd Noble Center, highlighted by the Beauty and the Beast event held in conjunction with the OU wrestling program, and the continuing home and away series with Michigan.
The home opener on Jan. 21, which features a split-floor gymnastics meet and wrestling dual will see the Sooners facing Iowa State and TWU in a tri-meet as the OU wrestling squad competes against Northern Colorado.
The home slate continues when North Carolina, a 2017 NCAA Regional team, travels to Norman on Feb. 11. Wrapping up the month of February will be Big 12 foe West Virginia on Feb. 23. March 3, the first Saturday of the month, will see OU hosting Michigan for a matchup between two powerhouse programs.
The final home meet of the season will be a quad meet with Arizona State, Arkansas and Denver on March 9, honoring seniors Natalie Brown, Stefani Catour, Samantha Craus and AJ Jackson.
“The Lloyd Noble Center has hosted some of the best gymnastics the country has to offer and this season is no different,” stated head coach K.J. Kindler “Every Big 12 team will come to Norman this season as well as NCAA powerhouses like Arkansas and Michigan. We have created a non-stop action atmosphere at our events where fans are able to enjoy the sport of gymnastics with their families and be completely entertained from beginning to end. Our attendance grew rapidly last season and we expect an even greater increase this year. All Sooner fans should see them in action.”
Away from Norman, the Sooners will compete in seven regular season contests, opening the season at 10-time national champion Georgia (Jan. 15). The Sooners will continue to challenge themselves with difficult road meets, traveling to a trio of 2017 Super Six competitors in Florida (Jan. 26), UCLA (Feb. 4) and Alabama (March 16). OU is also scheduled to travel to TWU (March 18) ahead of Big 12 Championships.
“We are so pumped about the amazing road schedule this season!” Kindler continued. “These programs have incredible rosters filled with talented athletes and dedicated coaching staffs. Not only will the competitions be intense, but the stands will be packed at Georgia, Florida, UCLA and Alabama. All four rank near the top for attendance nationally in any women’s NCAA sport and what an excellent opportunity to be in an electric environment like that. We are looking forward to all the challenges and learning opportunities this road schedule will provide to our team.”
OU will prep for the NCAA Championships with a podium meet on Feb. 16 at the annual Perfect 10 Challenge. Held inside Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, the Sooners will face former Big 12 foe and current Big 10 competitor, Nebraska.
“The Nadia Comaneci Perfect 10 Invitational in Oklahoma City is always an exceptional opportunity for our team to be on podium,” Kindler said. “The podium provides a championship experience for both the fans and the athletes. It is perfect preparation for the post season, especially against one of the top teams in the nation: The University of Nebraska. This unique event has attracted new fans in the OKC area and has helped grow our program.”
The regular season concludes with the Sooners chasing their seventh straight Big 12 Championship title. Competition is slated for March 24 in Ames, Iowa.
“We are excited to head back to campus for our Big 12 Championship at Iowa State,” Kindler shared “Our conference has strengthened and this championship environment prepares us well for the postseason.”
The postseason journey begins with NCAA Regional competition on April 6 with Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Raleigh, N.C.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and State College, Pa. serving as host sites.
The 2018 NCAA Championships will be held inside Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Mo., April 20-21.
From its 2017 national championship squad, OU returns four gymnasts who combined for 10 All-America honors in seniors Stefani Catour and AJ Jackson, junior Nicole Lehrmann, and sophomore Maggie Nichols. Sophomore Bre Showers, returning from a season-ending injury in 2017, will be back in the Sooners arsenal for 2018. In addition to the returners, the Sooners also add newcomers Jordan Draper, Ashley Hiller, Abigail Matthews, Evy Schoepfer, Anastasia Webb, and Carly Woodard.
Season tickets for the 2017 campaign are currently available for purchase. Tickets cost $40 for general admission, $25 for youth and senior citizens and $60 for reserved seating, which will reserve a seat location for the entire season. Fans can order online through SoonerSports.com or over the phone at (405) 325-2424 or toll-free at 800-456-GoOU.