Behind their redshirt senior leader Vanessa Zamarripa and some well timed contributions by other members of the UCLA Gymnastics team, the UCLA Bruins posted a 197.200 in the second session of the NCAA Gymnastics Semi-Finals and advanced to the Super Six tomorrow to decide the NCAA Champion.
The Super Six begins at 4pm tomorrow at Pauley Pavilion. Doors open at 2:30pm and tickets are available here. It will also air online on ESPN3.
Advancing with the Bruins tomorrow are Alabama with a 197.350 and Oklahoma, who also scored 197.200. Joining the Bruins from the first session is Florida with a 197.775, LSU with a 197.325, and Georgia with a 197.150. Full stats are available from session 1 here, and from session 2 here.
The Bruins started the meet on the beam. In some ways, it's good to get the scariest event out of the way first. In others, if you have a bad start, it can affect you for the rest of the meet. The Bruins escaped the beam without any major issues, being fortunate to drop Olivia Courtney's 9.425 (which wasn't aired, so I have no idea what happened. I doubt it was a fall, probably a near fall.) Danusia Francis anchored the Bruins with a 9.90, and fellow freshman Sophina DeJesus contributed a 9.825. After one rotation, the Bruins were in third place with a 49.075, behind Michigan and Oklahoma.
After a bye in the second rotation, the Bruins moved on to the floor, where they absolutely shined. Courtney recovered from her mishap on the beam to score a spectacular 9.925 on the floor to the lead the Bruins. Alyssa Pritchett was spectacular again on the floor, with a 9.9, and Vanessa Zamarripa also contributed a 9.9. As a team, the Bruins posted a 49.450, a spectacular score for them this year. After three rotations, it was very, very close. Alabama and Oklahoma were tied for first with a 98.550, the Bruins were right behind them with a 98.525, and Utah right behind them with a 98.50. Michigan, who is usually great on the beam, only had one gymnast score above a 9.8 and had to count a 9.6.
After the floor, the Bruins moved to the vault, undeniably their strongest event, and each gymnast delivered. I was wondering why Sydney Sawa led the Bruins off, since she did a vault with a low start value during the season, but she upped her difficulty and led off for the Bruins with a steady 9.825, and from there, the stick/slight shuffle parade began for the Bruins. Kaelie Baer scored a career high 9.95, and Courtney, Wong and Zamarripa scored 9.90. As a team, the Bruins scored a 49.50, which they must repeat tomorrow. After four rotations, Oklahoma still led with 148.050 but UCLA was close behind with a 148.025. Alabama and Utah sat out this rotation.
The Bruins sat out the fifth rotation, which was the final one for Oklahoma and Michigan, one team that we were chasing and a second that we wanted to keep behind us, so we would know exactly what we would need to stay in the top three. Oklahoma ended the night with a 197.200, and Michigan with a 196.850. I had a suspicion before the night started we would need to score above 197 to qualify, so I knew we would need at least a 49, which, barring disaster, was attainable on the bars.
In the final rotation, UCLA moved to the uneven bars, while Utah was on the beam and Alabama was on the vault. Alabama is one of the best teams in the country on the vault, so I knew they'd take one of the three spots, so the focus was to stay ahead of Utah. It didn't start out great for the Bruins, as Wong didn't come to a full handstand on two occasions and had a hop on her landing, scoring a 9.75, but the remaining Bruins picked it up. DeJesus stuck her landing and scored 9.90, while Monique de la Torre, Francis and Zamarripa scored 9.825 each. (This is an area where UCLA can really improve tomorrow to pick up those tenths they gave up tonight.) As a team, the Bruins scored 49.175, bringing their team total to 197.200. Meanwhile, Utah had the unspeakable happen - two routines with mistakes, and it doomed their chances for the Super Six.
UCLA competes for their seventh gymnastics NCAA title tomorrow. We'll have an open thread up around 3p tomorrow. Let's Go Bruins.
Aim for 198.