WLU Acrobatics & Tumbling Holds Off Pioneers

WLU Acrobatics & Tumbling Holds Off Pioneers

Lady Hilltoppers set to compete for MEC championship on Saturday

     FAIRMONT, W.Va. – The West Liberty University Acrobatics & Tumbling squad will be competing for a Mountain East Conference championship on Saturday after holding off Glenville State, 249.885-247.840, here Friday in an MEC Tournament semifinal at Joe Retton Arena.

     Coach Kelsey Kyle’s No. 2-seeded Hilltoppers will take on top-seeded and No. 8-ranked Fairmont State in Saturday’s MEC Tournament championship match, set for a 4 p.m. start. The host Falcons coasted to a 256.850-241.475 win against No. 4 seed Frostburg State in Friday’s other semifinal.

     Saturday’s championship matchup is a rematch of a regular-season thriller between the two squads that saw Fairmont State nip West Liberty, 254.77-253.61, late last month inside the ASRC. Kyle said her team embraced that narrow loss as inspiration for this weekend’s run at a tournament title.

     “Losing by one point that night was tough but it lit a fire under our team,” Kyle said. “We felt great about our performance but knew we still needed a little extra edge to come out on top when we saw (Fairmont) again. With the changes we’ve made and the work we’ve put in over the past two weeks, I think we’ve found that edge.”

     The Hilltoppers won five of the six events against the No. 3-seeded Pioneers on Friday and never trailed in notching the first post-season win in program history. West Liberty swept all three first half events, highlighted by a school-record 9.725 score in the Acro event’s 6-element heat. The Black and Gold closed out the half with three straight scores of 9.60 or higher in the Pyramid event to take a commanding 94.30-89.40 lead into the break.

     “I was very happy with our first half performance,” Kyle said. “The girls just went out there, did what they needed to do and never let up.”

     When action resumed, West Liberty eked out a 26.25-25.80 nod in the Toss event before creating some significant breathing room with a 51.025-47.050 victory in the Tumbling event. That seemed to put the match on ice, giving WLU a solid nine-point advantage going into the final Team event, but the scrappy Pioneers weren’t finished yet.

     Glenville State responded with one of its best Team event performances of the season and when the Hilltoppers encountered some difficulties in their routine, it made for some anxious moments as both teams awaited the final scores.

     Glenville won the Team event, 85.59-78.31, but that decisive winning margin still wasn’t enough to overcome the lead West Liberty had built through the first five events, sending a relieved squad of Hilltoppers into Saturday’s championship match.

     “Our performance in the Team event made that final score a little too close for comfort,” Kyle said. “We have plenty of time before the championship match tomorrow so we’re going to rest up, watch film, and make whatever changes are necessary in order to get another win.”

     While the championship match is set for a 4 p.m. start, Kyle and her team will be back on the Joe Retton Arena mat Saturday morning to compete in the MEC Event Finals, which start at 11 a.m.

     West Liberty didn’t qualify in a single event in the inaugural MEC Tournament two years ago but it’s a different story this weekend. The Hilltoppers will be competing for MEC event titles in 10 of the 15 events in the morning and returning to the floor to compete for a team championship in the afternoon.

     Coach Kyle wouldn’t have it any other way.

     “Not having a chance to compete for a title last spring because of the pandemic shutting everything down just makes us appreciate this moment even more,” Kyle said. “This is the first time West Liberty has made it to the championship match and we are going to leave our legacy out on the mat tomorrow.”

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