Pitt is Back in NCAA Tournament

Panthers gymnastics team competes in Regionals on Saturday

Jeff Hathhorn
April 06, 2018 - 4:45 am
group of Pitt gymnasts

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For the first time since 2013, the Pitt women’s gymnastics team is in the NCAA Tournament, competing in the Columbus regional on Saturday.

“When our coaches sat us down and told us we were going to regionals I just started crying,” said junior Charli Spivey.  “Knowing we were going to regionals was just the most amazing feeling”

After the retirement of long-time coach Debbie Youman, Pitt hired Arkansas assistant Samantha Snider for her first head coaching job.  It was not easy to start.  Snider worked her team hard all-preseason and the demands were many.  But the results, like producing four of the top 10 overall scores in Pitt history, make it all worth it.

“They see that if they buy into our program they will see success,” Snider said.  “So it’s so important, not just for this year, but for the future and especially for next year.  We can continue to build on this success.  Continue to push ourselves higher into the rankings and really push to make ourselves to national prominence."

“Everybody has worked so hard every single day in the gym and outside the gym to be the best they can be,” said freshman Haley Brechwald.  “It’s going to be an amazing experience for everyone to be rewarded for their hard work.”

Snider didn’t do it alone, the help of her husband and assistant coach Ryan Snider, along with veteran coach Dave Kuzara; a two-time head coach and former West Virginia assistant, along with other stops.

But it wasn’t just that experience, Snider credits the energy of senior transfer Catie Conrad.  The former All-MAC performer from Eastern Michigan was what the team needed.  Snider said she’s been a vocal leader that has helped the team stay positive during rough times.

 “She has done nothing but bring good positivity and good vibes to this team,” Spivey said.  “She pushes us every day in the gym.  It’s been an absolute blessing to know her.”

“She is just a reminder every day of how much we fell in love with the sport since we were little,” Brechwald said.  “And she kind of renews that same energy every single day.”

This is not to minimize the role Brechwald has had.  The true freshman from Virginia won her first ever rotation with a 9.825 on the vault and won the first of four all-around titles that same day. Brechwald won 12 titles in all in her rookie season, as Snider called her a force to be reckoned with.

“It’s been a rollercoaster, but it’s been incredible,” Brechwald said of her year so far.  “I couldn’t ask for a better transition into college.”

Snider believes Saturday is a chance to show what Pitt gymnastics is all about. 

“We have gotten really close this year,” Snider said.  “We’ve had some really great things happen, but we agree as a team and staff that we really haven’t put it together yet.  So here is our chance to do that.  We go out there and we have a strong meet and let the chips fall where they may.”

“There are no words,” Spivey said when asked to describe the season.  “I think this is the year where we set the tone for the future of Pitt gymnastics.  I think we can only grow and get better.  It’s going to be really awesome to see.”